This is an excerpt from the history of Catalina on www.catalina.com
[Starting in the early 1800s] Yankee and English merchant ships soon began to appear as well, having sailed all the way around The Horn of South America laden with manufactured goods. They knew that the government of New Spain did not keep the California outposts well supplied and that the Friars and townspeople would often trade leather and tallow and even otter pelts for manufactured items although it was against the law.
When New Spain revolted from its mother country and became Mexico in 1820, California became a province in the new country. The Mexican government allowed trade with foreigners but levied a tariff on all goods imported into the country. (As there was no property or income tax at the time, this was their primary means of raising revenue for running the government.) However, the Mexican government still did not have enough ships to patrol the California coast.
Smugglers would put part of their cargoes ashore at Santa Catalina and then appear at the customs port to pay duty on the remaining cargo. They would then receive permission to trade up and down the coast--which they did, coming back to Catalina to replenish their stock with undeclared goods. Several smugglers blatantly set up warehouses on the Island and were admonished and fined by the Mexican authorities. The trade was still leather and tallow (and otter skins while the supply lasted) for manufactured goods. The leather and tallow was taken back to the East Coast or England to be turned into manufactured goods and perhaps journey around The Horn again.
Catalina even has a Pirate Festival! This year it is on October 3 - Buccaneer's Day at Two Harbors. Cool!