A few days ago the peanut gallery at a popular online fishing forum got wind of the Native Fish Society's work to reduce the impact of hatchery programs on the Sandy. While there are some seriously misinformed people out there it is also good to see the issue of hatcheries and their impacts on wild fish coming before the mainstream. It is also encouraging to see the number of people in the angling public who understand the role hatcheries have played in depressing wild runs. One common problem people seem to have is understanding that scientists never talk in absolute terms. As scientists we're trained to acknowledge our uncertainties and limit our inferences to what the data can address. For individuals accustomed to politicians and cable news broadcasters that type of equivocation is all the ammunition they need to dismiss it as nothing more than theory, or even attempt to discredit the researchers as biased. Natural systems however are inherently complex and the decline of wild fish will never be attributable to a single cause. Some love to blame commercial fishermen despite the fact that very few Sandy River steelhead are caught in commercial fisheries, others blame habitat destruction and while they lament the past they dismiss the possibility of improving conditions for the future. Blaming something other than your own consumptive use is always the easiest way forward, but as anlgers we can and must do better. The bottom line is people will believe what they want to believe regardless of the strength of the evidence, but for me the dozens of scientific papers which point to hatcheries as a major driver of wild population declines are more than enough evidence.
From the way alot of those dudes talk you'd think they had read a great deal of the literature on hatchery wild interactions.