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Better evaluate the efficiency of the fishways: the case of the Porto Primavera Dam

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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: Companhia Energética de São Paulo – CESP; Instituto Água Viva; Universidad de Valladolid; Coordination of Improvement of Higher Level Personnel – CAPES; National Council for Scientific and Technological Development – CNPq
  • Duration of the project: 7 years (2012-2019)
  • Cost of the project: U$ 200,000

Context of how the project has emerged:

Hydropower development in Brazil continues to increase. This development is a result of a great energy demand in Brazil due to industrial and populational growth. However, construction of new dams imposes great risks to fish management and conservation. To make matters worse, the most popular management action (fish ladders) has been described as ineffective for not providing bidirectional connectivity. Faced with this critical scenario, the project was proposed as a means of performing long-term fishway monitoring, aimed at understanding how fish species use the fishway.

The project was proposed as a means of performing long-term fishway monitoring, aimed at understanding how fish species use the fishway.

Strategy and objectives

This project aims to understand long-term migratory fish behavior through fishways, which is fundamental information in order for the energy sector to apply more effective management strategies for long-distance migratory fish species.

This project was implemented on the fishway of the Porto Primavera Dam influences longitudinal fish species’ distribution over at least 750 km in the mainstem of the Paraná River, between the Itaipu Dam and the Engenheiro Souza Dias Dam.

This project was ambitious, running the RFID system full time through 7 years, from 2012 to 2019, to monitor the Porto Primavera fish ladder. This is an unprecedented feat, especially for Tropical countries. Overall, more than 4,000 fish of 16 migratory species were PIT tagged (Passive Integrated Transponder Tags are electronic implantable microchips used for tracking).

This long-term research reveals a new migratory behavior hidden behind non-technological and short-term studies. These findings have broken the paradigm that fishways are largely ineffective in rivers around the world and proves that some fish species are able to perform bidirectional and voluntary movements through fish ladders over it is life cycle.


The project’s innovative characteristics


This project is innovative because it provides a new approach of fishway monitoring. Over years many studies of fish migration through fish ladders have been done in a short-term and focus on one-way movements. This project brings a new design of fish migration researches through fish ladder, thinking on bidirectional river connectivity for migratory fish species.

This new approach is more efficient because take in account the fish behavior at individual level, it means to understand the voluntary fish choice moving to upstream and/or downstream of the dam.

a) Fish sampling. b) Biometry of fish sampled. c) Fish being tagged with PIT-tag. d) Fish being tagged with dart-tag. e) Tagged fish being released to monitor whether the fish ladder will be used bidirectionally. f) Porto Primavera Dam’ fish ladder.


Results and perspectives

In the short-term, the searchers have been able to prove that the fish ladder of the Porto Primavera Dam is providing the bidirectional connectivity that is necessary for the conservation of migratory fish species. In practical terms, these findings prevent the managers, developers, and researchers from spending money, time, and energy trying to find alternatives for the management of migratory fish species, where such expenditures would not be necessary.

Furthermore, this project has proved the efficiency of the equipment: the bi-directional connectivity via the fish ladder has allowed the genetic flow, maintenance and conservation of the migratory species of the upper Paraná River.

How can this project be duplicated on other rivers? 

This project may be used as a model for other rivers around the world, mainly those which are highly fragmented by dams and require connectivity for migratory ichthyofauna. Pragmatically, the experience of this project may inspire managers and researchers to adopt technologies like PIT-telemetry system and use them to monitor the fish ladders full time through several years.

#Parana #Fish #Biodiversity #Dam

A part of this research project was published at River Research and Applications‘ journal, in March 2019.

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