It’s Of-fish-ial: The Fish Doorbell Is Back For Another Year

If you’re looking for something wholesomely bonkers to learn about today, look no further than the fish doorbell. Now back for the fourth year in a row, this internet sensation might end up with you accidentally wasting your lunch break, but hopefully, you’ll feel less bad about that when you discover how you’ll be helping out nature along the way.

Every spring, randy fish begin to swim through the canals in Utrecht looking for a place to spawn and reproduce. However, there’s an obstacle – a lock. Found on the west side of the inner city, the Weerdsluis lock rarely opens in spring, meaning fish can end up waiting quite a while before they can continue on their baby-making journey.

Having to wait around isn’t just a matter of fishy blue balls though; they’re also more likely to become snacks for hungry grebes and cormorants. Given that a plentiful fish population is vital to keeping their habitat healthy, local authorities set to finding a solution.

That came in the form of an underwater camera installed at the lock, which provides a 24/7 livestream of the fishy goings-on beneath the surface. This is linked up to a website with a digital doorbell. If users spot a fish waiting, they’re encouraged to press the doorbell, which sends a notification to the lock operator. If there’s enough fish waiting, then the lock is opened up by hand and the fish can swim on through.

The doorbell was first introduced back in 2021 and has become something of a hit every year since, spawning (heh) fans far and wide, and of course, TikToks and tweets aplenty.

“I thought I’d reach out to the public and see how many people would be willing to do this for a few minutes per day. Initially we even went door-to-door, asking households near the lock if they were interested in helping out,” ecologist and fish doorbell inventor Mark van Heukelum told the Guardian.  “Little did we know that it would go viral in just a matter of days.” 

But it’s not just a popular (and oddly soothing) boredom buster.

“We also want to show Utrecht’s residents and visitors how much life there is underwater in the canals,” reads the doorbell’s website. “The doorbell also provides information on the species and numbers of fish travelling through Utrecht’s waterways. We can use that information to improve the quality of underwater life in Utrecht.”

The fish doorbell even has its own weekly video journal, in which van Heukelum covers the most interesting footage captured in the last week, gives a “fish forecast” for the next week, and answers audience questions.

If you’re hoping to pour your heart and sole into helping out some fishy friends, the best time for catching a glimpse is at dawn and dusk in Utrecht when there are fewer predators about. This year’s stream started on March 1, and it usually ends around late June, so you’ve got plenty of time for viewing oppor-tuna-ties. 

Check out the livestream here and let us know in the comments if you spot anything!

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