Catalina Island News

Marine Animal Rescue Program dives into SCUBA history

Marine Animal Rescue (MAR)

Catalina Island was added to the service area of the 31-year-old Los Angeles County based Marine Animal Rescue (MAR) program in December of 2012. In just over four years the island’s division has responded to 648 calls through its well established reporting network throughout the island. Animals responded to or rescued have ranged from whales to sea birds and turtles, from seals and sea lions, to island fox, snakes and deer.

Jon Council, Darwin Horn and Eric Mahan are the principle island field officers who are involved with island animal rescues, along with several others who offer up their time and energy to help with various calls. As a non-profit 501C3 organization, fundraising is an omnipresent mission for MAR to enable patrol vessel maintenance, fuel, equipment purchases etc.

Lead field officer Jon Council is also an avid collector of historical diving equipment and possesses what is regarded as the most diverse and broad based vintage dive gear collection in the United States. Jon decided to blend his two passions by setting up a diving history exhibit in Avalon. The goal of the exhibit is to showcase the gear for the general public to view in a museum styled setting inside the world-famous Casino building in Avalon which is located on Casino Point and is also where the Casino Point dive park is situated.

The purpose of the exhibit is multifaceted, providing a fun, education based, family attraction/activity centered around dive history, the equipment and more importantly the pioneers of the diving community is a key vision of the project. Marrying the exhibit with a general fundraising drive for MAR is also part of the vision.

A Grand Opening fundraiser for the exhibit was held May 13, 2017. Revenues generated will be directed to the MAR program to help sponsor it and the ongoing efforts of providing humane solutions to various compromised animals living in the greater Catalina region.

Jon Council said he is “Both excited and grateful for the community support extended from so many various entities on the island.

“We’ve received almost unbelievable generosity, assistance and support from businesses and organizations such as The Catalina Island Foundation, Avalon Freight Services, Catalina Laundry, Catalina Tech Shack, Café Metropole, CC Gallagher, Avalon Grille, the Bluewater Avalon and dozens of island residents including the entire dive community. A special nod goes out to Ken Kling and the Kling family foundation for all of their incredible support. we can’t begin to thank all of them enough” said Jon.

"In-particular, the generosity of the Island Company for providing the space within the Casino building is huge and its importance to the success of the program’s fundraising effort cannot be overstated” Council added.

According to Alison Wrigley Rusack and Geoff Rusack, deeply involved longtime leaders of both the Catalina Conservancy and the Catalina Island Company, “The Marine Animal Rescue program’s tireless efforts on behalf of ocean wildlife, especially those birds and mammals in distress, have been impressive, and the mission of the program fits not only with the Conservancy’s focus on caring for the wild side of Catalina, but also with the Island Company’s emphasis on supporting organizations that do so many good things in our midst. We’re proud to provide a helping hand whenever it is needed.”

Catalina Island Company CEO, Randall S. Herrel, Jr. added, “We recognize the importance of programs such as MAR, and are happy to put our support behind those dedicated to preserving Catalina’s treasured natural resources.”

Catalina island has such an intrinsic connection to SCUBA history that it makes perfect sense to have an exhibit dedicated to celebrating it. Many of the items on display are either one-of-a-kind or early prototype pieces, or equipment once owned by notable figures in the dive industry. Essentially the only place to see these historical objects will be during this exhibit in Avalon. To be able to see these things and simultaneously support wildlife preservation efforts through MAR is a win for all involved!

The Dive History exhibit is located in the bottom level of the Casino Building, towards the Casino Dive Park. The exhibit is open, when schedule permits, from 9:30am to 5:00pm. For additional information, email any questions to