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by Intern Alaine Janosy

After spending over an hour speaking with Maureen Marinkovich and Linda Degnan Cobos, chapter leaders of Slow Food Land and Sea, I wanted to jump on a plane to San Juan Island and become a member of their chapter; their passion and enthusiasm was infectious!

Living in a small island community, both Maureen and Linda are acutely aware of how decreases in biodiversity negatively impact their community, and therefore they focus a lot of their events and activities around the importance of a biologically diverse food supply.

Maureen and her husband Matt are fishermen by trade so they have a vested interest in maintaining the health of the waters around San Juan Island and the wild salmon that live in those waters. As soon as we started talking about salmon, Matt jumped on the phone to tell me how salmon farming affects local wild salmon stocks. Fish farms are breeding grounds for sea lice. These lice infest the water that newly hatched wild salmon must pass through since most fish farms use open net cage systems. The young salmon lack scales and other natural defenses that allow adult salmon to combat parasitic sea lice, so many of them die. (Matt also sent me this illustrative video produced by Watershed Watch.) Salmon stocks are so low this year that Maureen and her husband will not be fishing for sockeye in the Puget Sound. To raise awareness about the salmon situation, Matt leads filleting demonstrations in the community and with the Land and Sea Slow Food Youth Club, demonstrating how to properly fillet one of his fresh-caught wild salmon and teaching people about the threats to wild salmon. As always, a threat to wild salmon is more than just a threat to one natural resource, it is a threat to the entire ecosystem. Depletion of wild salmon affects the plants and animals that rely on them for food, the native people for whom the salmon are not only a food source but also a source of tradition, and the livelihood of commercial fishermen.