Do fish locks have potential in tropical rivers?

Ivor G. Stuart, Andrew P. Berghuis, Peter E. Long, Martin Mallen-Cooper

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


This study evaluated attraction and passage of native fish through an automated fish lock on the tropical Fitzroy River in north-eastern Australia. In 69 samples (24 h each) taken at the exit and entrance of the fish lock, 17 fish species and 13 402 individuals were collected, at a maximum rate of 3317 fish per day. During low river flows, the fish lock transferred a broad size range of fish (35-710 mm long), though migratory biomass was small. Removal of a vertical fish-crowding device did not affect the passage rate. Netting studies and observations of fish migrating below the weir suggested that the entrance was poorly located during high flows and another fishway near the spillway would enhance fish passage. The fish lock was inoperative for 48% of the time, due to mechanical and software failure, and a narrow operational range unsuited to the variable hydrology. Nevertheless, these design issues are site specific and reflect that fish lock technology is in its infancy in Australia. The operational reliability of the fish lock is now greatly improved but further work is needed to optimize the automatic cycling. To accommodate the inherently variable hydrology of lowland tropical/sub-tropical rivers into fishway design, we highlight important research needs for fishways and migratory fish communities. Fish locks are often considered a less favourable fish passage option but with the operational reliability issues partially resolved, they appear to have considerable potential for tropical river systems with low minimum flows and low biomass; with further research and design, they may have wider application.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-286
Number of pages18
JournalRiver Research and Applications
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2007


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