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NW Fishletter #393, May 6, 2019
 New Scanners Installed At Bonneville Dam To Help Automate Fish Counts
A new scanning system designed to provide real-time data on the species, sizes and markings of anadromous fish traveling upstream has been installed at the Bonneville Dam and will collect data through November.
Under a contract with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, Whooshh Innovations hopes to demonstrate that their scanners are faster, cheaper and more accurate than human fish counters, who tally and categorize salmon and steelhead runs by looking through fish windows, or later viewing video-taped recordings of the windows at dams throughout the Columbia Basin.
The scanning system was set up at Bonneville's fish handling facility, where CRITFC diverts a portion of the fish run to get a sampling of fish lengths, weights and DNA for further studies. Fish from the ladder that are not diverted to the handling facility are now going past the scanners.
Janine Bryan, vice president and chief biologist for Whooshh, said six cameras will capture 18 pictures of each fish as they pass through the system, providing a hard record of the data collected. The photo-quality images show basics--such as whether the fish is a steelhead or Chinook--as well as details like the fish's length and girth; whether its adipose fin is clipped, which identifies it as hatchery stock; and markings that, for example, indicate injuries from predators. The information could be used to better inform fish managers.
Whooshh will use the data to improve its product, using artificial intelligence to better recognize differences between fish. "The more images we can get, the more we can train the computer program to say, 'That's a sockeye,' or, 'That's a shad, and shouldn't go forward,'" said Mike Messina, Whooshh's director of market development. The company has also developed sorting equipment that can separate out unwanted fish, such as invasive species.
Bryan said Whooshh expects to scan some 100,000 fish over the next seven months.
CRITFC spokesman Jeremy FiveCrows said there are many potential uses for the technology. At Bonneville, he noted, warm temperatures in the Columbia River can shut down its facility for gathering data on the run, so that fish aren't further stressed by handling.
"In the past few years, there have been long segments where the river's just been too hot for weeks and weeks at a time," he said. The new technology would enable the fish commission to continue gathering at least basic data, he noted. -K.C. Mehaffey
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