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Flying Fish Ahoy!

Uncategorized Jun 04, 2021

by Juliana Berner 

In one form or another, we know about salmon. Salmon are ray-finned fish in the Salmonidea family and are indigenous to the two largest oceans – the Atlantic and the Pacific. The Atlantic Ocean only has one species the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar), while the Pacific Ocean have six indigenous species, Pink (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha), Chum (O. keta), Sockeye (O. nerka), Coho (O. kisutch), Chinook (O. tschawytscha) and Cherry (O. masu) [1]. However, the overall lifecycles of both the Atlantic and the Pacific salmons are highly similar.

Quick lifecycle of the salmon

Salmon are anadromous fish meaning they transition between multiple habitats throughout their lifetime – in this case – between fresh and saltwater [2]. The life cycle of the salmon includes six stages:

  • Egg stage: laid and hatched in a freshwater river
  • Alevin stage: newly hatched with a yolk attached for nutrition
  • Fry stage: when the yolk sack has been absorbed the salmon is a fry – they are still small and highly vulnerable. However, some salmon species begin to migrate while in or directly after the fry stage.
  • Parr stage: larger in size and with a hint of body markings. Some species will stay in the river (in parr stage) for 1-3 years before migrating towards the ocean.
  • Smolt stage: the salmon reaches the estuary where the river meets the ocean, thereby adjusting the salmon's body to the saline water.
  • Adult stage: the salmon leaves the estuary as a juvenile and spend their adult life in the ocean, only to return to the same river when fully mature.

Depending on what species of salmon, maturity is reached between 3-7 years [3].

Salmon for the ecosystem

After the salmon have reached maturity, they begin the long migration back to their birthplace to spawn. While migrating, the salmon's body markings (which differ between species) change. Usually the males brighten and the females darken [3]. During their treacherous journey salmon are a highly sought-after food source for bears, eagles, osprey etc. [4].

In addition to salmon being an important food source for animals and humans alike, the salmon keeps the forest healthy [6]. After spawning the salmon die and decompose, releasing important nutrients that are beneficial to both the river and the forest [4]. Furthermore, the salmon migration helps to shape the rivers and the landscape [6].

But salmon stocks are depleting.

Natural disasters and climate change do contribute to the decline. However, anthropogenic activities such as overfishing, habitat loss, hydropower dams and hatcheries; where genetically modified salmon escape and breed with the wild salmon thereby modifying a population’s genetic characteristics, are the real sinners [5].

Bombs away!

To lend a helping hand, the Salmon Cannon (also known as the Passage Portal) was made! This invention is created by the company Whooshh Innovations: a company that grew from the field of agriculture in Washington state. It all started while the company were trying out an invention on mechanically harvesting and sorting tree fruits in 2011, the CEO of Whoosh Vincent Bryan III spotted helicopters flying past with large buckets, filled with migrating salmon over a hydropower dam. It was this impractical transportation of these fish that got the CEO’s invention gears grinding to figure out how to move these fish in a more sustainably and practically fashion. Which is how the Salmon Cannon came to be [7]. As the name, Salmon Cannon implies the salmon are shot through long soft flexible tubes filled with water by a burster, securing safe and easy passage past the dam or other obstruction, so the salmon may reach its designated destination [8].

However, even with this technology being around for the last eight years, it is only in recent years this technology has hit the spotlight of social media. The rise in fame is due to the catchy name and the highly entertaining videos showing the Salmon Cannon in action.

Want to learn how you could use technology to better understand and protect wildlife? Join us for Wildlifetek’s Summer School! You can find all of the details, including how to apply, at www.wildlifetek.com/summerschool

[1] Britannica, The Editors of Encyclopaedia. "Salmon". Encyclopedia Britannica, N.D., https://www.britannica.com/animal/salmon
[2] Schiewe, Michael H. “Salmon.” (2013) Academic Press, Page 522-531, Encyclopedia of Biodiversity (Second Edition), https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-12-384719-5.00293-8
[3] BiologyWise. “Salmon Life Cycle.” BiologyWise, N.D., https://biologywise.com/salmon-life-cycle
[4] Goverment of Canada. “Information about Pacific salmon.” Government of Canada, Date modified: 10.12.2019, https://www.pac.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/salmon-saumon/facts-infos-eng.html
[5] Crouse, Ron. “Salmon Decline and Recovery.” Science and Issues: Water Encyclopedia, N.D., http://www.waterencyclopedia.com/Re-St/Salmon-Decline-and-Recovery.html
[6] Stoll, Shannan L. “5 Reasons Salmon Are an Environmental Justice Solution.” Yes!, 5 Jul. 2018, https://www.yesmagazine.org/issue/affordable-housing/2018/07/05/5-reasons-salmon-are-an-environmental-justice-solution
[7] Whooshh Innovations. ”Our Story.” Whooshh Innovations, N.D., https://www.whooshh.com/Who%20We%20Are/our-story
[8] Whooshh Innovations. “The Passage Portal.” Whooshh Innovations, N.D., https://www.whooshh.com/Our-Innovations/Products/Systems/Fish-Passage/Passage-Portal


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