Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries

, Volume 28, Issue 1, pp 117–135 | Cite as

Fish passage design for sustainable hydropower in the temperate Southern Hemisphere: an evidence review

  • Martin A. Wilkes
  • Morwenna Mckenzie
  • J. Angus Webb


The development of hydropower and other infrastructure that disrupts river connectivity poses a serious threat to highly endemic and genetically distinct freshwater fish species in temperate parts of the Southern Hemisphere. Such locations have been neglected in previous reviews on fish passage. Fishways have long been constructed to mitigate the impacts of riverine barriers on fish, yet they have often failed for all but the largest, strongest swimming taxa. This is a particular problem in the temperate south, which is home to native species that are non-recreational and generally small-bodied with weak swimming abilities (e.g. Galaxiidae) relative to typical target species for fishway design (e.g. Salmonidae). Using the Eco Evidence method for rapid evidence synthesis, we undertook an assessment of evidence for effective fishway design focusing on species representative of the temperate south, including eel and lamprey. Systematic literature searches resulted in 630 publications. Through a rigorous screening process these were reduced to 46 publications containing 76 evidence items across 19 hypotheses relating to design criteria for upstream and downstream passage. We found an overwhelming lack of evidence for effective fishway design in the temperate south. Particular deficiencies were found with regard to the design of effective facilities for downstream passage. The attraction and entrance of upstream migrating fish into fishways is also relatively under-researched. Given the urgent need for effective fishways in the temperate south, these results justify an approach to fishway design based on a combination of empirical data and expert knowledge. In the meantime, significant resources should be assigned to improve the evidence base through high quality research. The particular deficiencies identified here could guide that research agenda.


Fish passage Fishway design Hydropower Non-recreational fish Southern Hemisphere 



This work was funded by the European Commission through the Marie Sklodowska-Curie action, ‘Knowledge Exchange for Efficient Passage of Fish in the Southern Hemisphere’ (RISE-2015-690857-KEEPFISH). We would like to thank Justin O’Connor and Frank Amstaetter of the Arthur Rylah Institute, Lee Baumgartner of Charles Sturt University, Martin Mallen-Cooper of Fishway Consulting Services, Paul Franklin and Cindy Baker of the National Institute for Water and Atmospheric Research (NIWA) and Oscar Link and Evelyn Habit of the University of Concepción for their valuable inputs in terms of evidence to be included in the review.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Martin A. Wilkes
    • 1
  • Morwenna Mckenzie
    • 1
  • J. Angus Webb
    • 2
  1. 1.Centre for Agroecology, Water and ResilienceCoventry UniversityCoventryUK
  2. 2.Department for Infrastructure EngineeringUniversity of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia

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