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An innovative laboratory in Latin America for studying tropical fish species: the LATECH project

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  • Project initiators: Western Paraná State University (UNIOESTE, Campus Toledo-PR, Brazil); Group of Research in Technology in Ecohydraulics and Conservation of Fisheries and Water Resources – GETECH; Ecohydraulics and Hydrobiology Laboratory – LATECH
  • Partners: Financiadora de Estudos e Projetos – FINEP; Instituto Água Viva – IAV; State University of Mato Grosso do Sul – UEMS; Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel – CAPES; National Council for Scientific and Technological Development – CNPq
  • Duration of the project: From 2011 to 2016 – construction of LATECH;  From 2017 – development of researches
  • Cost of the project: U$ 400,000

Context of how the project has emerged:

The need for design development of fishways suitable for tropical fish species is urgent, as the projects implemented so far have been adapted from those designed for temperate species such as the trout and salmon. It is emphasized that these species have a predominance of swimming behavior of jumping obstacles. This behavior does not occur, for example, in fish with bottom swimming behavior, such as tropical catfishes.

The Ecohydraulics and Hydrobiology Laboratory – LATECH, with an experimental hydraulic channel (flume), the first to be built in Latin America, is a technological innovation, will make it possible to develop studies on the behavior and swimming capacity of tropical fish species, as well as to develop prototypes in reduced models of fish passages that are more appropriate to tropical reality.

The understanding of hydrology and hydraulics aspects will be critical for the design of future engineering projects for tropical fish. The research  will also play a key role in the conservation and management of fish stocks, particularly of tropical migratory species and support hydropower production.


Strategy and objectives

The LATECH project has three main objectives:

  1. Development of studies on the behavior and swimming capacity of fish species to develop suitable models of fish passages (fish ladders, lateral channels), using an experimental channel (FLUME), a technological innovation in Brazil;
  2. Evaluation of the dispersion of organisms, organic matter and chemical substances under controlled flow conditions to understand the processes of dispersion and pollution by effluents from industrial and agricultural activities;
  3. Development of studies on river sediment behavior due to hydroelectric dams, which affect water systems, and consequently fish resources.

The expected results were:

  1. Provision of technical / scientific information to environmental agencies and hydroelectric companies for the preservation of fish species;
  2. Participation in the discussions with the environmental agencies in order to provide information for the elaboration of measures for the construction and adaptation of fish transposition and for the management of fishing;
  3. Training of human resources;
  4. Transfer of technology, knowledge and innovative processes to the community.


The project’s innovative characteristics



  • To evaluate the swimming behavior of migratory fish, the researchers will sample fish in diverse environments in the Paraná River basin, as the Paraná (including the Canal da Piracema at Itaipu Dam and the fish ladder of Porto Primavera) and Iguaçu rivers, using fishing gear suitable habitats sampled (gillnets, longlines, cast nets). The target species will be migratory species (such as curimba, piapara, piracanjuba, pacu, dourado, pintado, jau, surubim).

The type of swimming movement (Lindsey, 1978), that is, the modes of locomotion and propulsion, as well as the direction of movement (ascending, descending, maintenance or trawling), and the distance of the displacement will be determined. The time spent to perform the movements along the flume will be determined and related to the flow velocity. Morphometric measures associated with swimming capacity will be performed and analyzed.

  • For the assessment of the fish swimming capacity of different migratory species, will be employed the RFID System (Radio Frequency Identification), where the fish marked with passive electronic tags (PIT tags) will be tested voluntarily swimming against the current at different speeds, flow depth and established and controlled roughness in hydraulic experimental channel.

To quantify the efficiency on the ascension of fishes in hydraulic experimental channel is applied survival analysis, by calculating the risk function and ascent. To verify that covariates such as hydrological speed, depth, roughness, among others in the hydraulic experimental channel act as limiting the ascent/fish dispersion, predictive models will be developed, tested separately and may be considered based on exponential distribution, lognormal, Weibull, log-logistic and generalized gamma.

  • For dispersion of early life fish stages, fish in different development stages (eggs and larvae) will be obtained from induced spawning and purchased from fish farms in the region. Experiments will be carried out also in the hydraulic experimental channel, a flume in reduced model. This flume will be projected and constructed to be located inside the LATECH. The eggs and larvae used in the experiment will be migratory species. The dispersion time of eggs and larvae at different embryonic and larval stages at different flow rates will be evaluated. For this, video cameras will be used to record the dispersion of eggs and larvae along the experimental channel, as well as their behavior.

As for the evaluation of the swimming capacity of the larvae, they will be tested with different flow velocities, starting with a minimum velocity until reaching the critical velocity of swimming at each stage of development for each species.

  • To elaborate and test proposals of drawings and bioengineering projects of fishways for tropical fish, during the tests of behavior and swimming capacity will be carried out tests of hydraulic behavior (fluid behavior) and biological (swimming behavior using deflators). The deflators will be of various types like holes, vertical slots, stones in semi-natural systems. These deflators will be previously planned and made with different materials (wood, concrete, stones) for their tests and evaluation.

After these tests, they will be reproduced in controlled situations of the flow and velocities in the experimental hydraulic channel-flume. The use of PIT telemetry and video cameras will be used in these assessments.

Results and perspectives

The studies developed in the LATECH, in the experimental hydraulic channel-flume, will give a lot of information and improve knowledge of:

  1. the behavior and the swimming capacity of tropical migratory fish species
  2. the dispersal of the early life stages of fish
  3. the development of fishways suitable to tropical species
  4. the sediment behavior and dispersion.

Training courses have already been held, with the participation of hydroelectric technicians, researchers, environmental agency, public ministry and students. The courses covered fish migration, types and construction of fish passages.

How can this project be duplicated on other rivers? 

This project could be applied to tropical fish species from large rivers around the world, such as Amazon, Congo and Mekong rivers, where knowledge is still scarce.

#Brazil #TropicalFish #Biodiversity #Training


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