Fish Passes: Design, Dimensions, and Monitoring



Publication Date



Original report published in German in 1996. Translated by D. d'Enno and G. Marmulla


design, design criteria, downstream migration, fish ladder, fish locks, fish passage, hydraulic calculation, longitudinal connectivity, monitoring, nature-like fishway, river restoration, Salmo salar, salmon, sturgeon, upstream migration

Publication place



Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations


Many fish species undertake more or less extended migrations as part of their basic behaviour. Amongst the best known examples in Europe are salmon (Salmo salar) and sturgeon (Acipenser sturio), which often swim several thousands of kilometres when returning from the sea to their spawning grounds in rivers. In addition to these long-distance migratory species other fish and invertebrates undertake more or less short-term or small-scale migrations from one part of the river to another at certain phases of their life cycles. Fish passes are of increasing importance for the restoration of free passage for fish and other aquatic species in rivers as such devices are often the only way to make it possible for aquatic fauna to pass obstacles that block their up-river journey. The fish passes thus become key elements for the ecological improvement of running waters. Their efficient functioning is a prerequisite for the restoration of free passage in rivers. However, studies of existing devices have shown that many of them do not function correctly. Therefore, various stakeholders, e.g. engineers, biologists, and administrators have declared great interest in generally valid design criteria and instructions that correspond to the present state-of-the-art of experience and knowledge. The present Guidelines first refer to the underlying ecological basics and discuss the general requirements that must be understood for sensible application of the complex interdisciplinary matters. These general considerations are followed by technical recommendations and advice for the design and evaluation of fish passes as well as by proposals for choosing their hydraulic dimensions correctly and testing the functioning. Fishways can be constructed in a technically utilitarian way or in a manner meant to emulate nature. Bypass channels and fish ramps are among the more natural solutions, while the more technical solutions include conventional pool-type passes, slot passes, fish lifts, hydraulic fish locks, and eel ladders. All these types are dealt with in this book. Furthermore, particular emphasis is laid on the importance of comprehensive monitoring. These Guidelines deal with mitigation of the upstream migration only as data on improvement of downstream passage was scarce at the time of preparation of the first edition, published in German in 1996. Therefore, the complex theme of downstream migration is ony touched on but not developed in depth.

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