The Salmon Cannon: [enter barrel related pun here]

Salmon migration. Image credit - Irionline

Salmon migration. Image credit – Irionline

Whooshh Innovations have developed a cannon that helps migrating salmon return ‘home.’  The ‘salmon cannon,’ which is currently operational on a tributary on the Columbia River, not only improves the lives of salmon but is also environmentally friendly.  Three cheers for the salmon cannon!

Salmon populations are taking a pounding in the Pacific Northwest [1, 2].  The encroachment of humans into their natural habitats has resulted in a decline in numbers [12].  One of the principle issues facing salmon is the construction of hydroelectric dams [3].

Salmon are anadromous fish, meaning that they migrate to the sea as juveniles to take advantage of the favourable growing conditions and return to fresh water when adults to spawn [4].  The distances some salmon swim during their 2-7 year life cycle are immense, records show it can be as much as 1,000 miles [4].  Salmon return to the same stream that they originated from using the earths magnetic field and their sense of smell as guidance [4].  Dams cause migrating salmon problems as when returning from the sea to spawn the salmon need to scale any dams that are blocking their way.  Previous efforts to help the salmon have included lifting the school over the damn using a helicopter and transporting them around the dam by truck.

Whoosh Innovations have developed one of my favourite salmon transportation methods yet: the salmon cannon.  Vince Brian, the CEO of Whoosh Innovations, told NPR, “The salmon cannon is a device we have invented to move objects gently.  It works by pressure differentials… the salmon move very quickly and come out of the end into the water as if they were shot out of a cannon.”  The fish are ejected from the ‘cannon’ unharmed and swim away seemingly unperturbed [5].

The invention will undoubtedly make the long journey salmon take to the spawning grounds much easier but it is just one solution to a far reaching problem.  Over fishing, pollution of waterways, destruction of habitat and increased competition from hatcheries that produce fish are all contributing to declining salmon populations [1, 6, 7, 8].  To guarantee stable recovery these issues must also be addressed.

Anyway, without further ado, I introduce to you the salmon cannon:


[1] – Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. Salmon recovery in Washington. [accessed 1st September 2014].
[2] -Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office. Salmon species listed under the federal endangered species act. [accessed 1st September 2014].
[3] – The Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Dams impacts on salmon and steelheads. [accessed 1st September 2014]
[4] – Hodgson, S. and Quinn, P. T., The timing of adult sockeye salmon migration into fresh water: adaptations by populations to prevailing thermal regimes. Canadian Journal of Zoology, 2002, 80(3): 542-555.
[5] – Whoossh Innovations. Background. [accessed 1st September 2014]
[6] – Gresh, T. et al. An estimation of historic and current levels of salmon production in the Northeast Pacific ecosystem: Evidence of a nutrient deficient in the freshwater systems of the Pacific Northwest. Fisheries, 2000, 80(1): 15-21.
[7] – Nehisen, W. et al. Pacific salmon at the crossroads: stocks at risk from California, Oregon, Idaho, and Washington. Fisheries, 1991, 16(2): 4-21.
[8] – Krkošek, M. et alDeclining wild salmon population in relation to parasites from farm salmon. Science, 2007, 318(5857): 1772-1775.

Photo credits; Featured image – Ingrid Taylor/Flckr.  Inset image – Irionline

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