On Tuesday, officials with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (WRC) confirmed that there was an act of vandalism at the Armstrong Fish Hatchery that resulted in the deaths of 150,000 rainbow trout. Authorities suspect that the perpetrators entered the McDowell County facility over Easter weekend and diverted fresh water away from the hatchery, leaving thousands of young trout to suffocate. Wildlife officials promised that an investigation is underway and highlighted the seriousness of the situation.

“Meanwhile, our biologists are identifying options for meeting fish-stocking schedules as planned, including transferring trout from another Wildlife Commission hatchery and increasing feeding rates to grow other trout faster,” the WRC announced on their Facebook page. “In addition, the Wildlife Commission has been fortunate to receive multiple offers of assistance and trout from other state fish & wildlife agencies, including the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries.”

WRC fish production supervisor David Deaton told The McDowell News that the dollar value of the lost trout is estimated at $150,000. The fish, which ranged in size from four to 10 inches, were meant to be stocked across 12 counties in western North Carolina over the next two years. Raising replacements for the lost trout could take as long as 18 months.

“My goal is not to impact our stocking,” said Deaton. “We will work feverishly on a plan to mitigate these losses.”

Hatchery workers clearing dead fish from their raceways.
Hatchery workers clearing dead fish from their raceways.

Many anglers took to Facebook to voice their outrage.

“Catch ’em and throw away the key!” wrote one commentator.

“If they vandalize a fish hatchery then they don’t have a decent bone in their bodies. Some are just the scum of the earth and should serve jail time AND fines for the fish they killed!” wrote another.

Others wondered why the fishery did not have more security measures to keep vandals from entering. Wildlife officials said the perpetrators entered the facility sometime late Saturday afternoon. The WRC has ruled out employee error and suspects that the perpetrator may have an agenda against the agency or hatchery.

“It’s pretty evident it was a malicious act,” Deaton told The McDowell News.

The dead fish were loaded onto trucks and disposed nearby. Officials are considering transferring fish from another hatchery to help make up for the loss.

Update 4-10-2015: Police have arrested three men, aged 20 to 21, in connection with the vandalism to the Armstrong Hatchery. According to local media, officials do not believe the men knew what they were doing, but were simply “messing around.” They have been charged with injury to personal property and pollution or damage to a hatchery. 

Images courtesy North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission

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9 thoughts on “North Carolina Hatchery Maliciously Sabotaged, 150,000 Trout Suffocated

  1. Science has shown that fish suffer fear and pain. The perpetrators caused 150,000 fish to suffocate to death. They should, of course, be charged with animal abuse.

    1. Can you quote the study that demonstrated that fish suffer fear and pain? I’m for penalizing the individuals to the fullest extent of the law, but animal abuse, seems to be a little absurd. Fines and restitution should be sufficient.

      1. There are many studies that demonstrate fish sentience. See the Fish Sentience fact sheet on the Fish Feel website. Victoria Braithwaite, professor of fisheries and biology at Penn State University has written a book entitled Do Fish Feel Pain? that very elegantly and eloquently lays out extensive and compelling evidence that fish feel.

        It is no more “absurd” to punish someone for harming fish than it is to punish them for harming dogs, cats, or any other sentient animals.

  2. Human beings are notorious for taking the lives of ANY kind of nonhuman animal for granted; but at least some human beings show some compassion for a few of the “higher” vertebrates, usually certain mammals and birds. Unfortunately the bony fishes, such as these trout, usually get overlooked, and their sentience grossly underestimated. We should realize that no vertebrate taxon suffers so much killing, at human hands, as bony fishes (such as trout and their close relatives the salmon, but especially the “forage fish” such as sardines, anchovies and menhaden, as well as many other species), in terms of numbers of individuals put to death.

    1. There are studies that show that talking to plants helps them thrive. They love music, and it’s been interpreted that they show their appreciation by producing extra blooms, etc. What do you eat, dust? Or are you raping and pillaging the earths flora?

      The action that these folks took upon the trout hatchery is simply deplorable. The terrorism of farms, and now natural resource facilities is wanton waste, and does not serve any cause. disgusting

      1. I agree that much more work should be done on the nature of sentience in plants. Observations such as what you mention (though I doubt they have been demonstrated to be reproducible, still less explainable) are intriguing.

        But plants seem to lack a central individual being, focused on its presence in the world and its persistence in the world, such as we see readily enough in all the vertebrates and many of the invertebrates.

        Anyway, no act of killing is morally neutral; every act of killing is regrettable, even if some are justifiable. And a systemic evil of life in this world, for beings such as humans, is that we cannot survive without feeding on the tissues of other living creatures. We can do our best to reduce the cruelty or exploitation for which our food choices make us responsible; but humility and regret should always be a part of our life, with regard to what we eat.

      2. Why would you judge something like that as evil? Life consumes life and the cycle goes on. This isn’t just humans, it’s all life, even the plants that rely on nutrients provided by decaying living things broken down by bacteria and such. It’s hard for me to see the inherent nature of life and the universe as anything other than morally neutral.

      3. Right, that’s the way the world works, must work, and there’s no way of conceiving of its working otherwise. That’s the problem, which is why it’s accurate to speak of a “systemic evil.” Mind you, not “evil” in the sense of a malicious action. I mean “evil” in the other sense, from the victim’s perspective, as an unwanted and undeserved interruption or degradation of its natural will to live. And all living creatures are helplessly complicit (“helplessly,” though human beings can alter the terms of their complicity somewhat, e.g. by avoiding eating animal-origin foods), not only by their food requirements, but even by other aspects of their survival, e.g. by how a healthy immune system seeks out and destroys microbes that enter the body.

        On the other hand, if you see “the inherent nature of life and the universe” as morally neutral, then we begin with quite different premisses. “Life” is in itself basically a great good, for all living creatures, and the interruption of that life, in itself, is therefore an evil for that creature.

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