Moving Salmon Via a
by Laura Berg
The developers of a tube system that uses differential pressure to transport fish say they are "on the cusp of commercial success."
Whooshh Innovations of Bellevue, Wash., has been testing the system--dubbed the Salmon Cannon--with live fish for the past five years.
"This technology is a gentler, more efficient way to move fish than traditional transport methods such as trap and haul or fish ladders," Todd Deligan told an audience at a Feb. 16-18 Northwest Hydropower Association conference in Portland. Deligan is Whooshh VP of business development.
Interestingly, the company started using its patented technology to move fresh fruit, such as pears and peaches, which are easily bruised. Then, Deligan said, company personnel had "an aha" moment--"We can do this for fish!"
During a conference panel on hydropower innovations, he discussed some test results on the Whooshh system.
Researchers with the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) found no mortalities or signs of injury, Deligan reported. "For adult fall Chinook, the Whooshh transport system produced outcomes that were comparable to or better than using a trap and haul method--regardless of tube length," he said about the study.
Deligan described the Yakama Nation Fisheries Department test of a 40-foot system at Roza Dam on the Yakima River that conveyed more than 500 adult spring Chinook over the dam.
"The mortality rate for whooshed fish was half what it was for the 'traditional' method" of handling, then hauling the fish, he said. "The study showed the survival rate of eggs hatched from the Chinook whooshed and those handled and hauled were statistically equivalent."
Deligan told NW Fishletter, "With a 120-foot tube at a 35-degree rise, we can get a single fish through in 4 to 7 seconds. We've also tested live fish successfully going through [a tube] up to 200 feet long."
How does it work? According to an article in Science, "The Whooshh system uses the pressure difference created when the tube's flexible membrane molds to the fish. With the fish's body acting as a seal, the fish zips from an area of high pressure behind it into the low-pressure area ahead."
The low-cost system is currently being used in several "real-life" applications, including at Washougal Hatchery in southwest Washington and for commercial fish processing in Norway.
"In five years, we've gone from a novelty, to studies, to the cusp of commercial success," said Jeanne McKnight, Whooshh's public relations representative.
"Hopefully this spring we'll be ready for the Yakama Nation to test a 1,100-foot-long system to get fish over Roza Dam," Deligan said. "The vertical rise from the fish facility to the dam will be about 200 feet. We'll use live Chinook and follow them from their Whooshh encounter in the spring to the fall when they spawn," he said.
When asked about high-head dam passage, Deligan was cautious, but offered that one of the company's "earliest visionary goals was to be able to pass live migratory species over or around barriers such as Grand Coulee.
"While we need to take it step by step and work with our partners on everyday fish handling solutions, it is still our goal to make high-head dam passage a reality.
"That reality," he said, "is certainly in the future, especially to blocked areas in the Columbia, but it is a vision (however speculative) that we hope to achieve."
Last Week Tonight with John Oliver: Salmon Cannon HBO, 11/9/14 Watch
Whooshh: No Dam Problem with the Salmon Cannon by Manon Verchot, Treehugger, 8/22/14
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