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Reinventing fish passage at hydropower sites

“It’s like the hyperloop for fish” explains the team at Whooshh Innovations, the company behind a new system that promises to disrupt the world of fish passage. The Whooshh Passage Portal is a portable, automated solution that collects and transports fish over a dam through a series of soft tubes connected to the river. Noticeably, there is no need to build additional hard infrastructure or alter the river flow to make the portal work.

Whooshh gained celebrity a few years ago with the ‘salmon cannon’, which became a viral sensation on social media and cable TV. Strikingly, the early prototypes for the system required handfeeding of the fish into the tube. But, despite what the nickname suggests, the fish was always gliding safely back into the river after its trip through the tube.

Today, the fish swim into the portal on their own, from a platform located at the river level. Before entering the tubes, they are scanned and sorted by size and species, depending on the site requirements. Once inside, a small pressure differential creates a force that guides the fish through the tube. The tube is irrigated, misted with water and allows the fish to breath. Whooshh explains that the system was designed from the fish’s perspective and is frictionless.

The passage portal can identify and 'whooshh' up to 40 fish a minute, that’s more than 57,000 fish a day. Whooshh is confident that the technology will aid fisheries restoration around the world by offering an alternative solution to complex fish ladders and lifts. The ability to sort invasive species and provide more precise counts and data than is currently the norm is an added benefit of the system.

The fish passage portal is versatile and can help address a range of fish passage issues: for example, the passage network was used in 2019 to mitigate the effects of a landslide that caused 75,000 cubic metres of rock to fall into the Fraser River in Canada, blocking spawning salmon passage.

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