For the pale-skinned among us, the ocean is one of the most dangerous places to be. There’s no place to hide from the sun, and the water is so frickin’ reflective that even if that SPF 45 sunblock weren’t being washed off by waves and spray, it wouldn’t do much good anyway.
But for the fish, the ocean should be a safe place. At the very least, they shouldn’t have to worry about the sun. However, we humans have made a gigantic hole in the ozone (remember that thing? Still there!), and part of that hole is over the ocean. With the increase in UV exposure, the ocean is no longer a place for fish to happily soak in the rays. Instead, like me, they have to worry about getting skin cancer.
The local fishermen call them the Rambo fish: their scarred, blackened skin makes them look as if they have survived wars. In fact, these are the first wild fish known to have skin cancer.
The diseased coral trout, living on Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, were brought to the attention of Michael Sweet at the University of Newcastle in the UK last year … 15 per cent of sampled fish had cancerous lesions.
It seems possible that fully restoring the ozone layer would actually be the easiest fix for this problem. Because I can’t imagine trying to sunscreen a whole school of fish.
First Skin Cancer Found in Wild Fish, New Scientist.
Get Grist in your inbox