How the Salmon Cannon Could Save Washington’s Fish Population

Yep, there’s something called a “salmon cannon” that’s taking over the state of Washington in hopes of saving the state’s fish populations, but no, it’s not as dangerous as it sounds. Bellevue-based engineering group Whooshh Innovations has created the device to help transport fish, quickly and safely, to essential breeding grounds which have been made inaccessible by dams and other man-made structures. Previously, conservationists had to transport the fish using time- and energy-expensive methods (like the ultra-scientific method of “Carry — Run — Toss,” which requires those exact three steps, on repeat, for every single fish). Whooshh’s new design has been thoroughly tested and appears to be significantly more effective in terms of cost, time, and energy.

The Salmon Cannon is, as VP Todd Deligan describes it, a bit like a mail room’s pneumatic tube system. The Cannon is a vacuum-powered “sleeve”, with one end close to a riverbank and the other end feeding into a holding tank. Workers simply load the fish, one at a time, into the riverbank sleeve end, and the vacuum shoots the fish through the sleeve and either feeds directly into a tank of another water source, or the vacuum-sleeved propels the fish into the air, allowing them to be transported even farther, until they finally land in their final destination. The vacuum is unique in that it doesn’t require the items to be symmetrical, like a normal transportation vacuum does, and it can safely and gently transport live fish over hundreds of feet.

Although the Salmon Cannon is still fairly new, Whooshh predicts that it will not only affect the environmental stability of Washington’s fish populations, but will also fortify the populations enough so that local people can once again depend on fish, like the King salmon and Sockeye salmon, as part of their diet. Where man-made structures and over-fishing have caused significant — and harmful — decreases in fish populations, the Salmon Cannon may be able to help the fish survive and reproduce enough so that the entire ecosystem will benefit.

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