Health & Environment

Don’t Expect To See A Fish Tube Or Salmon Cannon In Texas

There aren’t any large fish species in Texas that would benefit from using a fish tube, but it’s needed in some areas of the U.S., even if it can be disorienting for fishes.
By Sam Peshek, Texas A&M University Division of Marketing & Communications August 22, 2019

Salmon Tagged As They Swim Upstream From The Atlantic
Salmon attempt to leap up the fish ladder in the river Etterick on October 27, 2014 in Selkirk, Scotland.

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Whether you call it a fish tube or a salmon cannon, don’t expect to see the apparatus that took the internet by storm in Texas any time soon.

Todd Sink, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service aquaculture specialist and associate professor in the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences, said there is currently no need for the projectile system in Texas that was depicted in a viral tweet, as it was developed specifically for salmonids to help them overcome manmade barriers to their migration along the Pacific coast.

“We don’t have any native salmonids in Texas nor any large fish species that as a whole species or population are dramatically impacted by manmade migratory obstructions,” Sink said. “There may be an argument for paddlefish or sturgeon, but this technology would have to become mega-sized for these species.”

The footage used in the viral tweet originated from Cheddar, which documented the work from the tube’s creators, bioengineering company Whooshh Innovations. The tweet launched thousands of memes into existence in a matter of days, like an edit that swapped out the music with sounds from Mario, but it’s no laughing matter for those tasked with the health and survival of fish populations. Washington State wildlife specialists told Popular Mechanics the apparatus has helped salmon overcome manmade obstacles along their migratory patterns for years.

Amid all the conversations about tubes and cannons and the think pieces it spawned in media outlets like WIRED and The New Yorker, some social media users raised an important question: what happens to the fish at the other side of the tube?

Sink, a fish physiologist by training, said the salmon cannon would cause momentary disorientation and may elicit an acute stress response, including increased cortisol secretion, leading to decreased plasma glucose concentrations, disrupted blood ion regulation and suppressed immune response.

“This all sounds terrible, but it is all part of the natural stress response that keeps an animal safe in response to a stressful stimulus,” Sink said. “In reality it is no different than a student that gets stressed before taking a pop-quiz. Upon hearing of the pop-quiz, a student would experience a short-term stress response including increased cortisol secretion, leading to decreased plasma glucose concentrations, and suppressed immune response.”

Tubes and cannons may seem over-the-top to the casual observer of fish projectile systems, but for Sink, it’s an action that needs to be taken in order to help species overcome the obstacles put in place by humans and survive.

“Fishery scientists are always looking for ways to protect, conserve and restore native fish populations in the face of growing human populations, water needs and urbanization, and do it in a manner that causes the least amount of discomfort to the fish,” Sink said. “For now the fish cannon may represent the best way to conserve this population of salmon even though it may cause temporary, minor discomfort to the fish.”

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