Thousands of dead, rotting fish being discarded.
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.