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

Middleton, C.T., Hinch, S.G., Martins, E.G., Braun, D.C., Patterson, D.A., Burnett, N.J., Minke-Martin, V., Casselman, M.T., Gelchu, A. 2018. Effects of natal water concentration and temperature on the behaviour of up-river migrating sockeye salmon. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 75(12): 2375-2389.

Burnett, N.J., Hinch, S.G., Bett, N.N., Braun, D.C., Casselman, M.T., Cooke, S.J., Gelchu, A., Lingard, S., Middleton, C.T., Minke-Martin, V., White, C.F.H. 2017. Reducing carryover effects on the migration and spawning success of sockeye salmon through a management experiment of dam flows. River Research and Applications 33:3-15.

Bett, N.N., Hinch, S.G., Burnett, N.J., Donaldson, M.R., Naman, S.M. 2017. Causes and consequences of straying into small populations of Pacific salmon. Fisheries 42:220-230. *Featured article for this issue

Bett, N., Yun, S.S., Hinch, S.G. (2016). Behavioural responses of Pacific salmon to chemical disturbances cues during the spawning migration. Behavioural Processes 132:76-84.

Bett, N.N., Hinch, S.G., Dittman, A.H., Yun, S.-S. 2016. Evidence of Olfactory Imprinting at an Early Life Stage in Pink Salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbuscha). Scientific Reports 6:36393.

Bett N.N., Hinch, S.G. (2016) Olfactory navigation during spawning migrations: A review and introduction of the Hierarchical Navigation Hypothesis. Biological Reviews 91(3):728-759.

Bett, N.N., and Hinch, S.G. 2015. Attraction of migrating adult sockeye salmon to conspecifics in the absence of natal chemical cues. Behavioral Ecology 26(4):1180-1187.

Burnett, N.J., Hinch, S.G., Braun, D.C., Casselman, M.T., Middleton, C.T., Wilson, S.M., Cooke, S.J. (2014) Burst swimming in areas of high flow: delayed consequences of anaerobiosis in wild adult sockeye salmon. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 87(5):587-598.

Burnett, N.J., Hinch, S.G., Donaldson, M.R., Furey, N.B., Patterson, D.A., Roscoe, D.W., Cooke, S.J. (2014) Alterations to dam-spill discharge influence sex-specific activity, behaviour and passage success of migrating adult sockeye salmon. Ecohydrology 7(4):1094-1104.

Taylor, M.K., Hasler, C.T., Findlay, C.S., Lewis, B., Schmidt, D.C., Hinch, S.G., Cooke, S.J. (2014) Hydrologic correlates of bull trout (Salvelinus confluentus) swimming activity in a hydropeaking river. River Research and Applications.

Cooke, S.J., Hinch, S.G. (2013) Improving the reliability of fishway attraction and passage efficiency estimates to inform fishway engineering, science, and practice. Ecological Engineering 58:123-132.

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.