You can't tuna fish, but you can ring the doorbell for them!
May 2, 2021 4:56 AM   Subscribe

Every spring, fish swim right through Utrecht, looking for a place to spawn and reproduce. Some swim all the way to Germany. There is a problem, however: they often have to wait a long time at the Weerdsluis lock on the west side of the inner city, as the lock rarely opens in spring. We have come up with a solution: the fish doorbell! An underwater camera has been set up at the lock, and the live feed is streamed to the homepage. If you see a fish, press the digital fish doorbell.
You too can help horny little fishies get to their make out spot by ringing the doorbell for them, as explained here. Bonus points if you live on the other side of the world, as the fish like to swim mostly at night.
posted by MartinWisse (48 comments total) 52 users marked this as a favorite
 
Mainly perch.
posted by StephenB at 5:48 AM on May 2


I love this!
posted by EllaEm at 6:30 AM on May 2


Is there some reason the locks couldn't be cycled every night just on a schedule whether regular or irregular?
posted by Mitheral at 6:33 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Is there some reason the locks couldn't be cycled every night just on a schedule whether regular or irregular?

Ecologically, the right solution would be identifying times of fish migration and ensuring that the lock provided passage during those times, whether by opening on a schedule or providing a fish bypass. Unless fish passage is legally mandated, no one is going to spend all that money. Instead, relying on volunteers to watch cameras for fish may be about as good as it gets.

The link doesn't talk about it, but I wonder if downstream passage is equally an issue or if there is a spillway that is providing adequate downstream access?
posted by Dip Flash at 6:59 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


This sounds more effective than animal tunnels.
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:03 AM on May 2 [1 favorite]


Well yeah, because the animals would drown.
posted by flabdablet at 7:29 AM on May 2 [12 favorites]


If this is like a lot of locks, it may not be automated at all. Somebody has to drag their ass out of bed to come out and physically run the lock.

That said, I wish they would just do a dedicated fish elevator instead. Not for any practical reason, but just because fish elevator.

(Also: how are we not trying to train the fish to ring the doorbell? They expect people around the world to watch the door around the clock, but the fish can't even learn some basic manners?)
posted by phooky at 7:39 AM on May 2 [7 favorites]


So in NYC, anytime you see someone playing a piano on TV that piano was tuned the morning of the performance, and chances are it was tuned by probably the grumpiest man in the city. If you said to him "Good morning, how are you?" his answer was always the same: "Lousy."

One morning on the old Regis and Kelly show, we had Mr Lousy in to tune a baby grand piano. There was a dead key on this particular rental, so he took the entire mechanism apart, repaired it, then tuned the whole thing. The whole process took about an hour and a half, and one or two of us stood by in case he needed anything. He might've been lousy, but he was a joy to watch as he was working.

As he was wrapping up, slowly and methodically, one of the other stagehands said to me "you know you can tune a piano but you can't tuna fish."

This man, Mr Lousy, who I'd never seen so much as even crack the slightest hint of a smile in the 5 or so years I'd been in the business at the time in any studio in which I'd seen him...first smiled, then giggled, and eventually wound up with his face in his hands laughing like it was the funniest thing he'd ever heard. I was (and still am) astounded.

That being said, I love the fish doorbell idea, and thanks for the awesome title and for the great memory it triggered.
posted by nevercalm at 7:50 AM on May 2 [106 favorites]


If this is like a lot of locks, it may not be automated at all. Somebody has to drag their ass out of bed to come out and physically run the lock.

If random people on the internet can press the doorbell for fish and get it to open, then it's probably sufficiently automated? Or else I really pity the poor sucker whose employers just put an all-hours wake-up alarm for them out onto the internet... seems like that might violate some workplace standards laws.
posted by eviemath at 8:19 AM on May 2 [3 favorites]


From the English page, it seems that they have to have a fish quota to make it worth opening. So some person checks the stream before deciding to let the fish through.

In other news I saw a fish!
posted by AlexiaSky at 8:25 AM on May 2 [11 favorites]


They admit somewhere that they could use a fish recognition algorithm but well... this is more fun.
posted by vacapinta at 8:28 AM on May 2 [3 favorites]




I just left a flaming bag of dog poop on my keyboard then rang the doorbell and ran to another room. That’ll show ‘em!
posted by TedW at 9:26 AM on May 2 [13 favorites]


I saw a fish and pushed the button. Then I saw another or the same one again but was too slow to hit the doorbell before it disappeared.

It was very obviously a "baars", looking at the fish ID section, which seems to translate into both "perch" and "bass" in English, which I thought were different fish, but ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ all I know about fish is which ones I like to eat, which to be honest is most of them.

So some person checks the stream before deciding to let the fish through

I think the button push is more of an "image capture"? After I pushed it there was a little window that popped up with a still image of the fish and the word "Foto." So I'm kinda hoping/assuming that there's some sort of "minimum rings per hour" thing before an alarm goes off, and the operator can check if the rings actually captured fish. Otherwise I feel bad for some poor sod getting rousted at all hours . . .
posted by soundguy99 at 9:34 AM on May 2 [4 favorites]


Thinking about this more, cycling the lock is definitely better than nothing, but probably provides pretty poor fish passage overall. There isn't attractant flow, and you are counting on fish hanging out right below the lock and being willing to move into it in the short time it is open. (Glancing quickly at the research, there is a lot of variation in species' willingness to move into locks, too.) Having a bunch of fish stacked up at the lock with no cover waiting for it to open increases the risk of predation; on the US west coast, that has increasingly included sea lions hanging out right below dams and locks and eating vast quantities of fish, as well as native and non-native predator fish.

That said, getting dam and navigation system operators to make even small operational changes like this is really hard, so even a partial step like this represents a lot of work and is worth celebrating.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:42 AM on May 2 [4 favorites]


If they were catfish, they’d just turn around as soon as you let them in.
posted by darkstar at 9:42 AM on May 2 [31 favorites]


I don’t know why they have a doorbell when they could have used a salmon cannon.
posted by Monochrome at 9:47 AM on May 2 [5 favorites]


TedW, dozens and dozens of people may not appreciate your humour but this one people does
posted by elkevelvet at 10:16 AM on May 2 [2 favorites]


I still find it quite amazing there are any fish at all swimming in our grachten. They used to be open sewers, full of human and industrial waste, far into the last century; even in the 1990s most houseboats discharged directly into the canals.

Water quality has improved a lot in the last decades, and they even say you can now swim in the canals without risk for your life. The fish, i guess, are proof of this! But their multitude is also quite novel, which may explain the absence of other measures.

The locks themselves, anyway, were constructed in the early 14th century to aid in the defence of the city; around the same time the small suburb across the moat was surrounded by a wall. The current locks date from 1822 and though the walls were demolished after 1830 (Utrecht being the first city allowed to do so), some remnants of the old gates can still be seen nearby. The piers and quay are popular places to sit in summer.
posted by trotz dem alten drachen at 11:17 AM on May 2 [32 favorites]


By the by, I hope you have also seen this foto gallery of fish caught on the camera. This one looks a bit like me.
posted by trotz dem alten drachen at 11:21 AM on May 2 [12 favorites]


I SAW A FISH! I RANG THE BELL!!
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:44 AM on May 2 [21 favorites]


Thanks for the door bell.

-The Fish.
posted by clavdivs at 12:24 PM on May 2 [9 favorites]


This is my favorite thing today. I do call bullshit on whatever this language is supposed to be, though.

"Zijn er vissen in beeld? Druk dan op de visdeurbel!"

It's like pretend Yiddish from Vaudeville, or something.
posted by allthinky at 1:51 PM on May 2


Oh. I saw a lot of fishes earlier today, but didn't know if they were the ones who needed to be let through. Sorry, fish.
When I was a kid I loved canoeing, and often there would be salmon steps around the locks. Can't they just make them? They are rather simple constructions, I'm sure they are cheaper in the long run than people on the internet activating the lock.
posted by mumimor at 2:08 PM on May 2


allthinky: I do call bullshit on whatever this language is supposed to be, though.

Excuse you...
I spent time and effort in order to be able to communicate in your language, and this is what I get in return?
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:17 PM on May 2 [20 favorites]


and often there would be salmon steps around the locks.

Not much help if those fish aren't salmon. Or trout, because those can actually jump those steps.

The other species would probably need a fishcalator.
posted by Stoneshop at 2:33 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]


Mod note: Comment removed - mods can use Google Translate, please mind the note under the comment box.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:39 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]


> It's like pretend Yiddish from Vaudeville, or something.

They are somewhat closely related languages! However, Jiddisj would be „Zenen fisjn in bild? Drik dan ojf di fisjdorbel.”
posted by trotz dem alten drachen at 3:46 PM on May 2 [7 favorites]


I love this whole thing, thank you for posting it!
posted by Sparky Buttons at 4:36 PM on May 2


Sorry, Too-Ticky, I actually found it delightful that I could understand so much of it, with no actual training in Dutch. Just making fun of my own ignorance, really.
posted by allthinky at 6:14 PM on May 2


This lock is right behind the apartment of one of my dearest friends! I’ve ridden across it on a hundred-ton Dutch bike so, so many times. My heart is glad.

Note about automation: this is a lock from the Middle Ages, definitely operated by humans.
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 9:03 PM on May 2 [2 favorites]


The fish doorbell allows us to work together to ensure that fish do not have to wait as long at the Weerdsluis lock. This is good news, because it means they are less likely to be eaten by other animals, such as grebes and cormorants.

I mean, it's not good news for the grebes and cormorants.
posted by Flock of Cynthiabirds at 11:55 PM on May 2 [1 favorite]


You can see how the lock operates in this video at 0:47
posted by Pendragon at 11:59 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]


allthinky: I actually found it delightful that I could understand so much of it, with no actual training in Dutch.

That's hardly surprising. What is surprising to me is that many native speakers of English don't realise that our languages are fairly closely related.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:59 PM on May 2 [3 favorites]


I love this so much! I have seen 3 fish and rang the bell for them!
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 12:21 AM on May 3


I've just rung the bell for a beauty of a baars.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:06 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


allthinky: I do call bullshit on whatever this language is supposed to be, though.

That's ok. You don't need to speak Dutch in Holland; you can get by perfectly well in German.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 1:35 AM on May 3


Actually, most people in the Netherlands (which is the name of the country) speak better English than they speak German. But can we* let the language derail drop now? Just because something happens in a country that's not the US, the post is still about what it's about, and that's the visdeurbel. And let's face it, the visdeurbel is amazing.

*yes, that includes me
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:29 AM on May 3 [6 favorites]


Actually, most people in the Netherlands (which is the name of the country) speak better English than they speak German. 

And, speaking English in Holland (where I used to live, or for that matter Brabant, Utrecht, Gelderland etc., though possibly not Drenthe, where I have also spent some time) won't get you ignored, unlike speaking German.

Thank you for reminding me to add the <sarcasm> tag next time.
posted by Cardinal Fang at 3:26 AM on May 3


I mean, it's not good news for the grebes and cormorants.

Well, if they eat them now there'll be fewer little fishies for the little aalscholvers (cormorants) and futen (grebes) next year.

But try and get those birdbrains to understand that.
posted by Stoneshop at 4:55 AM on May 3


This lock is right behind the apartment of one of my dearest friends! I’ve ridden across it on a hundred-ton Dutch bike so, so many times.

rrrrrrrrrrt, please, oh please, go for a dip in the canal and moon the camera.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:23 AM on May 3 [5 favorites]


go for a dip in the canal

when you're diving at night, and your feet feel a bite,
that's not a moray
though you can possibly feel
the more native eel

(but more likely a meerval, grondel or rivierdonderpad)
posted by Stoneshop at 8:01 AM on May 3 [4 favorites]


It was very obviously a "baars", looking at the fish ID section, which seems to translate into both "perch" and "bass" in English, which I thought were different fish

Perch is the type of baars what you're going to see here, the ones with the stripes on their sides , bass is zeebaars. Those are salt water fish that don't have much of a pattern.
posted by Stoneshop at 8:46 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]


and just when I thought the goose-cam represented peak internet experience

so great, thank you for sharing this!
posted by elkevelvet at 2:25 PM on May 3


By the by, I hope you have also seen this foto gallery of fish caught on the camera.

I was afraid to click that link but so relieved when I didn’t see something like this.
posted by waving at 4:15 PM on May 3


This is really giving me life today. Thank you for posting!
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:48 PM on May 3


Here is the dude for whom the fish doorbell tolls:
Lock operator Rashied Saeedi (left), shown here together with city ecologist Anne Nijs.
posted by Too-Ticky at 2:42 AM on May 4 [5 favorites]


fishcalator.

Pescalator of course.

Feel free to groan at either.
posted by Stoneshop at 9:17 AM on May 8 [3 favorites]


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