The theme for the 2016 Fisheries Society of the British Isles (FSBI) symposium was “fish genes and genomes: contributions to ecology, evolution and management”. This paper focuses on the potential contributions of genomics to conservation of salmonid fishes. Worldwide, the valuable intraspecific diversity of endemic salmonids is vastly depleted, and conservation efforts are urgent. Although conservation genomics stand to make a significant contribution, a long history of ecological research has already provided much of the knowledge that is needed. Using the example of Ricker’s (1972) report on hereditary and environmental factors affecting salmonid populations, this paper demonstrates that ecologists have long appreciated the importance of local adaptation and intraspecific diversity for salmonid conservation. Conservationists will need to embrace the genomics revolution and use new insights to improve salmonid management; at the same time researchers must be forthcoming with the uses and limitations of genomics, and conservation must move forward in the face of scientific uncertainty.