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Hydropower, fish passage, and olfaction

A common issue facing wild fish throughout the world is the use of dams to generate electricity. Fishways, also known as fish ladders, are sometimes installed to allow fish to get past hydropower operations. Challenges exist in successfully passing fish, both because of issues attracting fish to the fishway entrance, and because fishways are often physically challenging to ascend. Using multiple types of telemetry transmitters, our lab has done work to provide new information on how salmon find and ascend fishways. Similar to our other field research on adult salmon, telemetry data are paired with physiological biopsy that tell us about the reproductive profile, metabolic status, and energy stores of individual fish. The data that are generated allow us to understand how variable flows coming out of a dam (for electricity generation) affect fish behaviour, physiology, and survival. In addition to the physical challenge of reaching and ascending a fishway, it must first be located, which is where our investigations into olfaction (a fish’s sense of smell) come into play. Salmon have a finely tuned sense of smell that allows them to identify their natal stream, and hydropower companies often divert water through canals and away from the migration path. These diversions can affect the success of fish in reaching spawning areas, and experimental work using novel molecular techniques is helping to reveal how fish react to “smelling” different waters. This work advances our understanding of basic fish biology and informs hydropower practices that benefit wild fish. 

Selected Publications

Burnett, N.J., Hinch, S.G., Braun, D.C., Casselman, M.T., Middleton, C.T., Wilson, S.M., Cooke, S.J. (In Press) Burst swimming in areas of high flow: delayed consequences of anaerobiosis in wild adult sockeye salmon. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology.

Taylor, M.K., Hasler, C.T., Findlay, C.S., Lewis, B., Schmidt, D.C., Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J. (In Press) Hydrologic correlates of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) swimming activity in a hydropeaking river. River Research and Applications.

Pon, L.B., Hinch, S.G., Suski, C.D., Patterson, D.A., Cooke, S.J. (2012) The effectiveness of tissue biopsy as a means of assessing the physiological consequences of fishway passage. River Research and Applications 28: 1266-1274.

Roscoe, D.W., Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J., Patterson, D.A. (2011) Fishway passage and post-passage mortality of up-river migrating sockeye salmon in the Seton River, British Columbia. River Research and Applications 27: 693-705.

Roscoe, D.W., Hinch, S.G. (2010) Effectiveness monitoring of fish passage facilities: historical trends, geographic patterns and future directions. Fish and Fisheries 11: 12-33.

For other publications, please see our Publications page.