Humans everywhere were captivated over the weekend by a viral video of salmon being transported from one estuary to another through a giant overland pneumatic tube — a.k.a. the “fish tube.” The jaunty video, which shows fish shooting through the sky like checks in a bank drive-thru, chronicles the work of a bioengineering company called — wait for it — Whooshh Innovations.
If you haven’t watched the clip, check it out —it’ll certainly have you scratching your head. But although it may look strange and unnatural to see fish being transported via a giant tube, the “salmon cannon” as it’s been dubbed is actually solving a problem that environmentalists have been battling for years.
For centuries, hydroelectric dams have been altering the environment and the flow of rivers that salmon depend on. Many inventions have been made to help salmon continue with their normal migration patterns despite the dams, but all of them come with serious risks and none have been all too successful. The conventional “fish ladder” method had a shocking success rate of just 3 percent, according to a study in 2013. When the fish tube system was trialed at the Columbia River earlier this year, the scientists reported that only one fish died—due to a “human error during the system setup.”
Obviously more improvements will have to be made to ensure the fish tube is a foolproof method of transporting salmon, but for now, it looks promising—even if it is a bit unorthodox.