Channel Islands National Park and the Local People Who Have Lived Here for Generations

Channel Islands National Park

The Channel Islands National Park is a marine sanctuary and has been one since around 1940's.

The islands are located about eleven miles out from the shores of Santa Barbara, California. The channel between the islands and the mainland has been a sanctuary for hundreds of kinds of marine animals, for hundreds of years. On a boat ride out into the channel it is common to see pods of dolphins, porpoises, and whales, who will approach the boat if the motors are turned off.

Many times I have seen seals surfing along with humans in the waves. It is a rare day that you cannot find people surfing all along the coastline, from Santa Barbara, Ventura, Malibu and beyond.

The waters are not always clear, for there is a lot of silt that gets stirred up in the currents, but the surf brings average swells between four to ten feet average. My husband and his brothers have been avid surfers here since they were children, and his father, and his father before him have always had an ocean based lifestyle. Not only has the family used the ocean for recreational sports, but as a career, for they have all been commercial divers and fishermen for five generations.

The book, Island of the Blue Dolphins, is a story about an Indian girl who got stranded on the islands back in the old mission days, when the rest of her people came to the mainland, and she was forgotten there. It was my husband's great great grandmother who took her in and gave her a home when she was finally rescued as an adult and was brought back to reunite with her tribe. Back then, great great grandpa dove some, very shallowly, but mostly fished and hunted seals for their pelts out in the channel. The seas here have always been very rich in marine life, and have supported many generations of fami;lies.

The book "The Diaries of a Sea Captains Wife" is the story of my husbands family, how they navigated, fished, and had many life and death survival stories living here, and sailing the channel as a way of life.


channel islands just before sunset
channel islands just before sunset

islands off california

A Marine Sanctuary

   The area here is very warm, right next to tropical weather.  It tends to get foggy during the springtime, but the summers are warm and beautiful. 

   The families who still dive off this coast, commercially, mostly dive for sea urchins, an animal that lives off of the seaweed that thrives out in the channel.  Urchins  have very hard spines, are poison if you get a spine in your skin, but are fished for their roe, which is a delicacy in japan and other Asian countries.  The divers find them anywhere from ten feet to one hundred twenty feet deep, and they do attach themselves to rocks, reefs, or anything else they find, or can be found just floating in the currents, following the kelp beds. 

   Abalone used to be picked here also, but as of late, the abalone has been banned from picking due to their disappearance the last fifteen or twenty years.  Some say it is due to the waters changing temperature, others believe it is due to a disease that made them literally shrivel up.  Abalone shells can still be found in the surf and long the shores, as are the shells of mussels, sand dollars, starfish, clams, snails, and many other varieties.

   This area is a great place to bring the family for a vacation, for their are many things of interest on the beach and off.  Even if you are not a fisherman, diver, snorkeler or surfer, the beach is always a good place to relax.  If the beach is not your cup of tea, there are always things to do like visit the sea aquarium, go out on the whale watch boats, and bike rentals for the miles and miles of bike trails that stretch for miles and miles up and down the coast.  

   In Santa Barbara, there is the Child's Estate Zoo, The Museum of Natural History, the Art Museum, and the Botanical Gardens, for the plant enthusiests, with miles of beautiful pathes to hike and explore.  Last, but by far not least, there are the Missions, in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and many other cities up and down the coastlines. 

anacapa island
anacapa island

How Long Will It Last?

Even though this may appear to be an article to attract tourists to this area, this was not my intention.

It sounds like a paradise and it has been, for as long as any of us can remember. Our family albums have pictures of this area, when there were still dirt roads over most of the area, but you can recognize the pier that stands out as something you can't mistake.

In comparison, the beaches waterways, and harbours have changed in looks, and in what you find in the waters. Due to the Dept. of Fish and Game setting areas of no picking or fishing as marine sanctuaries, and completely off limits, the commercial divers say, without any studies being done to support such a thing, huge quantities of urchins have been allowed to grow, beyong what is normally found, and are now taking out vast areas of kelp beds and seaweed beds, making miles of waters look like empty deserted wastelands. We also have ten times the amount of sport fishing boats, and commercial traffic than we had fifty years ago.

This all has an impact on a very fragile ecosystem, which at this point is still beautiful to the eye, but to those people who have lived here for many many years, and those who have depended on these waters for generations to care for their families, and have been in the waters here day after day, they have noticed great differences. One that I have taken note of myself, is the kelp harvesting boat that used to slowly run up and down our shorelines, cutting and harvesting the kelp, does not any longer, for there is not any kelp to harvest off of this shore anymore.

I do not understand why these things have gone unnoticed by our officials, but seemingly they have, and it is up to us, as the citizens who pay their wages, to make it known, by letters, and articles like this one, that can be sent out to our representatives, that we are worried and want something done to protect the resources that have been here for our family and many others for generations.

There have been plans made by many developers over the years, to turn this coastline into condos, motels, convention centers, and other special interest groups who have suggested underwater pipelines for oil, refineries offshore, and much more that has been fought off decade after decade by our locals, lets hope we can continue and win, for the love of our channel, for others to see and appreciate.

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Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

It sounds as though your family has had a long history with the Channel Islands and the surrounding terrain. From everything I have read, it is a fragile environment and needs to be protected. Very interesting article. Up votes and linking this to the hub I just published about California's 8 national parks. Will be a nice addition! Thanks!

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