When most fans think of Willie Mitchell, they picture the star Los Angeles Kings defenseman and Stanley Cup champion fearlessly protecting his goaltender. Most may be unaware the physical blueliner doubles as an eco-warrior.
While Mitchell remains off the ice due to injury, he remains in battle, fighting for the future of wild Pacific salmon. Mitchell, an avid outdoorsman and fisherman from coastal Port McNeill, British Columbia, is passionate about conserving this threatened species and preserving the health of our oceans.
Growing up in rural B.C., Mitchell developed a deep affinity for the ocean, where he spent much of his time when away from the rink. However, Mitchell did not entirely realize the rarity of such pristine environments until he went to training camps within more industrial communities. Mitchell credits this experience as vital to his appreciation for unsettled areas, which instilled in him a sense of responsibility to minimize his environmental impact, for himself and future generations alike.
One cause that is close to Mitchell’s heart and home is the plight of wild Pacific salmon. Once found in great numbers, these fish have become dangerously depleted after the commercial fishing industry introduced open-net farming of Atlantic salmon in Broughton Archipelago, a group of islands on B.C.'s coast. In many cases, high density aquatic farming can lead to the rapid spread of aquatic diseases like sea lice, which can have deadly repercussions for the young wild Pacific salmon.
Compelled to help protect the wild Pacific Salmon and his local ecosystem, Mitchell became involved and eventually joined the board of directors of Save Our Salmon, an organization dedicated to preserving the sustainability of wild Salmon fisheries by shifting salmon-farming from open-ocean to closed containment farming. Closed containment farming puts a physical barrier between the farmed salmon (and any communicable diseases they may carry) and wild stock, effectively maintaining the sustainability and economic viability of both for many generations to enjoy.
Although Willie’s crusade is based in his hometown of B.C., you too can help protect critically endangered wild Salmon and support sustainable seafood across North America. Many stores now offer closed containment-grown salmon, and public pressure can shift non-participating retailers to only stock the sustainable alternative. By purchasing this ocean-friendly option and pushing for its increased availability, you too can join Mitchell in the fight to sustain our oceans.