Juro-- I think that is why hatchery reform is so necessary. We've been turning out smolts that outcompete their wild brethren because of their increased size as well as their staggering numbers. But what if we could turn out hatchery fish that augmented natural production with fish much like wild smolts? If they're the same genetic stock, then I support that move.
I'm not as up to speed on hatchery science as perhaps I should be to comment, but it's my understanding that we can do a much better job than we have in everything from stock selection to culture. We have much of the knowledge but we lack the will and the money.
Having read the King of Fish about the fall of salmon, I believe that we've got to do much more than just close hatcheries to restore wild runs. We don't have the habitat in many of our rivers that these fish have adapted to... and without that habitat, healthy wild runs of salmon and steelhead naturally produced are unlikely to occur in our lifetimes.
But after Hogan's ruling was let stand, the question becomes one of what can we do to make hatcheries better? The alternative to better hatcheries that produce smolts better adapted to natural conditions is to close ALL hatcheries, making wild fish the only stock in the rivers. If that happens, it's likely that much of the fishing we now enjoy will be prohibited. We'll lose fishing, lose fishermen, lose fishing infrastructure. I doubt that full recovery would happen as quickly in most systems as it did in the Toutle, and if that is the scenario, then things indeed are bleak.