These fish are shooting out of a 'cannon' to keep their population alive. (Yes, really.)

Salmon have interesting migration and reproduction habits.

They're born upstream in rivers, in gravel beds. They spend most of their developmental years in those rivers, but by adulthood, the fish swim downstream, making their way to the ocean.

While swimming in the Atlantic or Pacific, these adult salmon eat and swim until its time to spawn.


Image via Thinkstock.

At that point, the fish head back to the rivers (often the river from which they came) and swim upstream until they reach the gravel bed, start the next generation of salmon, and die.

Ecologically, this return to the river is important — the deceased fish brings vital nutrients from the ocean back upstream, and in most other cases, those nutrients wouldn't ever find their way there.

Unfortunately, humans have a tendency to get in the way: We build dams, holding back rivers and blocking the path of the spawning fish.

We've come up with some workarounds, the most common being fish ladders, which run alongside dams, allowing fish to swim upstream (Wikipedia's explanation has a lot of great pictures).

But those ladders are expensive and often take a long time to build.

Researchers are looking for other solutions ... such as shooting fish out of a cannon.


Image via Whooshh Innovations.

OK, it's not really a cannon — it's more akin to a pneumatic tube, to be fair. But “salmon cannon" sounds much better, right?

The cannon was created by “Whooshh Innovations," a Washington-based company dedicated to using such methods of transportation in various new contexts.

Transporting fish above dams seemed like a good use, so they built a set of prototypes. Here'a video of the cannon in action — the GIF above comes from it.

As seen in the video, the fish (the cannon isn't limited to salmon) enter the tube single-file and, during their trip, are in an air environment, but no matter, within a few seconds, they're returned to the water.

In most of the examples shown, the fish are loaded into the tube by a worker, although in many cases that's not required. In situations where it is, that still may be OK — in addition to fish ladders, another conventional solutions to the fish migration problem is called “carry-run-toss" (it's shown at 2:05 in the video), and that's a lot more labor intensive.

The carry-run-toss method literally involves a person ... running up a flight of stairs and ramps and tossing the fish into the water at the top of the dam. This is a real job.

(If you can't watch the video, the carry-run-toss method literally involves a person taking the fish from a tank, running up a flight of stairs and ramps, and tossing the fish into the water at the top of the dam. This is a real job.)

The salmon cannon can transport fish up to 250 feet (with a 100 foot incline) at speeds approaching 22 miles per hour — that's about an eight-second trip for the fish.

Mental Floss reports that the tubes can transport 40 fish per minute, which is apparently a lot.

It is still highly experimental, but it has promise: Officials are already testing it out in hopes that it works.

Dan Lewis runs the popular daily newsletter Now I Know ("Learn Something New Every Day, By Email"). To subscribe to his daily email, click here.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

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The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

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Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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