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Kings' Mitchell fights for fish

Wednesday, 05.15.2013 / 4:45 PM | NHL Green

When most fans hear the name “Willie Mitchell”, they picture the star Los Angeles Kings defenseman lifting the Stanley Cup above his head last June. Unfortunately, this season, the surging Kings have been without their shutdown defender, who's not likely to return to action due to a knee injury.

While Mitchell remains off the ice, 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 just as 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 his first training camp in 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 in coastal B.C. is the plight of the area’s wild Pacific salmon. The once abundant fishery has become dangerously depleted after the commercial fishing industry introduced open-net farming of Atlantic salmon in the area’s Broughton Archipelago. In the case of many farms, high density aquatic farming can lead to the rapid spread of aquatic diseases like sea lice. Sea lice 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.

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