Salmon have a tough trip ahead of them when the time comes to spawn. Do you think they enjoy the ride up the salmon cannon?
Each year scores of salmon migrate from the Pacific Ocean up the Columbia River in Washington.
Amazingly, Columbia River salmon can jump up and over waterfalls, past hungry predators and through scores of debris and obstacles. It's one of the most amazing wildlife journeys in the United States.
But when they reach the 236-foot Chief Joseph Dam in Washington, their migration comes to a halt. It's just too damn big. And further up the river stand the formidable Grand Coulee Dam at 550 feet. There's no way that salmon could ever cross such monumental obstacles...or is there?
Washington-based Whooshh Innovations has developed a pneumatic vacuum tube that sucks up salmon and shoots them up and over long distances to safety. You can watch the "fish tube" in action in the video below. Try to imagine the salmon saying "weeeeee!!!" as they leave the tube.
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Whoosh Innovations originally designed their tube system to transport fruit across long distances. But after seeing how the state's large hydroelectric dams were problematic to the salmon migration, the company saw a different opportunity for their invention.
"So we put a tilapia in the fruit tube," Todd Deligan, Whooshh's vice president, told The Verge. "It went flying, and we were like, 'Huh, check that out.'"
Now the company is testing the tube system at the Roza Damn in Washington to determine how high and far they can launch salmon. Whoosh has already successfully shot salmon over 100 feet, but they think they can go higher.
"Grand Coulee would be the ultimate goal," Deligan said.
Fish ladders can only do so much, and aren't nearly as efficient. Finding safe migratory fish passages to the spawning grounds they biologically need is hard enough. The Whooshh system and its flexible tube makes a real difference.
Interestingly, the salmon will sometimes voluntarily enter the tube.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is planning to continue testing the tube. They'll use it again at the Roza Dam to shoot salmon up over a 20-foot embankment into the back of a truck for transport.
By all accounts, it looks like the device will work. It will be exciting to see if the state puts it into practice.