Here's how the 'Salmon Cannon,' a tube that shoots fish over dams, works
By N'DEA YANCEY-BRAGG | USA Today | Published: August 13, 2019
(Tribune News Service) — Video of a device built to shoot fish over hydroelectric dams that block their migratory paths resurfaced on Twitter over the weekend.
In the viral video, men can be seen chucking fish into the Salmon Cannon, designed by Whooshh Innovations, which transports fish through a flexible, pressurized tube and spits them out into another body of water.
"It's hard to move fish, it just is," Whooshh CEO Vincent Bryan told USA TODAY. "This makes it really easy."
Bryan said the version of the fishy contraption that gives fish a lift over dams so they can spawn is more than meets the eye: Fish swim in, are scanned and photographed, and then sorted into an appropriate tube. The system slightly increases the pressure behind the fish, creates a seal and propels it forward through a misted, virtually frictionless tube at a speed of 25 feet per second, Bryan explained.
The fish passage systems can transport up to 40 fish of various sizes per minute, according to Bryan. That's about 57,600 fish per day.
Bryan said systems have been set up in 20 locations across Northern Europe and North America, and the company is working on projects in Brazil and Singapore.
Though some on Twitter questioned the method's safety for fish, a study published in April found that "few fish had external injuries, and few unexpected events," occurred when using the Whooshh system.
On average, Bryan said the Whooshh system is about 80% less expensive than more traditional methods of helping fish get around dams, such as fish ladders. The systems save money because they don't require the same amount of water of natural fish ways.
Although the video found new life over the weekend, its comprised of older clips that have been online for years. Whoosh first tested the system on fish in 2011 and the company earned significant media coverage when some of the first cannons were installed in 2014, including a segment on comedian John Oliver's late night show Last Week Tonight.
Many on Twitter expressed interest in testing the machine out for themselves.
When asked if he's thought about designing a Salmon Cannon big enough for people, Bryan pointed out that people have expressed interest in developing a system that could move sturgeon, a large fish that can weigh up to 200 pounds.
"At that point, we would have a system big enough to move a human," he said with a laugh. "There's no question it would work. Whether you'd enjoy it or not, I don't know."
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