The Salmon Cannon Helps Fish Travel Upstream

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Salmon have a problem: Man-made obstacles are making it harder for them to complete their epic journey upstream to spawn. While some dams are equipped with what are called “fish ladders” that help the fish traverse, other dams, like the 236-foot-tall Chief Joseph dam, or the 550-foot-tall Grand Coulee dam, are far too big to be scaled. And if salmon can’t get back to their mating grounds, they’re not the only ones with problems. These creatures are incredibly important to the natural world. After they spawn, they often die in the river, and their bodies imbue the water and its surroundings with important nutrients. As the Wild Salmon Center, a conservation organization, puts it, “It is no coincidence that the largest remaining populations of apex predators such as brown bears and eagles occur where they are still healthy salmon runs.”

But fear not, salmon lovers, a company called Whooshh Innovations has a plausible solution: the salmon cannon. Using pneumatic tubing originally designed for quickly transporting produce, Whooshh has found a way to safely transport and propel salmon 100 feet into the air. "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.'"

Once the salmon are in the tube, a vacuum is created, and pressurized air behind the fish pushes it forward until it shoots out the other end at speeds of up to 22 mph.

If you’re worried about the fish, they’re kept moist in the tubes, and show no evidence of harm. The system can transport up to 40 fish per minute. The salmon cannon, while admittedly a bit ridiculous at first glance, could be cheaper than building new fish ladders and easier than collecting salmon and transporting them upstream in trucks or barges. Whooshh started testing the tubes on salmon at the Roza Dam in Washington state in June.