Video: The Salmon Cannon — Our Next Brainstorm for Weary Fish

If you’re a member of the noble genus Oncorhynchus — generally speaking, the Pacific salmon — you gotta wonder what those land-dwelling Homo sapiens will come up with next.

We two-legged land dwellers have treated the native salmonids — chinook, coho, steelhead and others — to a series of fun challenges. We’ve filled their spawning and rearing streams with millions of tons of mud, not to mention the trash and poisons of all sorts we’ve dumped in the water. We’ve gotten rid of most of the forests that made the streams habitable. We’ve dammed the rivers, drying up some altogether, because we need the water.

And then we have the gall to say how important and how tasty those salmon are as we hunt down their dwindling numbers. Since we feel that way, we’ve come up with all sorts of ways to fix things for the salmon.

To make up for the fact we’ve taken over most of their old habitat, we’ve set up hatcheries so that we can continue to produce commercial quantities of the fish. Since dams are in the way of migrating salmon, or because our rivers are occasionally not fit for them to swim in, or because of the way we’ve set up the plumbing in our delta waterways, we pump them by the millions into trucks and give them a ride out to the ocean.

When it comes to this fish, we are generous to a fault, and all those salmon have got to be thankful. But we’re not done yet.

Take a look at the video up there. A company in Washington state has come up with what some folks are calling a salmon cannon. It is actually kind of cool looking — a system of pumps and tubing that can suck a big salmon in one end and shoot it out the other. The firm that invented the system, Whooshh Innovations, is trying it out as a way of moving fish to trucks headed for a Washington hatchery, but it thinks it could be used to shoot fish over some large dams, too — the video includes a demonstration of a couple of salmon getting propelled up a tube that rises 100 vertical feet (then getting snagged out of the air by a guy with a big net).

So who knows? The fish cannon might be the next big thing in our never-ending campaign to help the salmon. And we humans have got to think those fish will be having fun.

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Dan Brekke

Dan Brekke (Twitter: @danbrekke) has worked in media ever since Nixon's first term, when newspapers were still using hot type. He had moved on to online news by the time Bill Clinton met Monica Lewinsky. He's been at KQED since 2007, is an enthusiastic practitioner of radio and online journalism and will talk to you about absolutely anything. Reach Dan Brekke at dbrekke@kqed.org.

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