As one might expect, Ed goes nuts over the solar power at Jackson Browne's home (not to mention the wind power). He adores the idea of harnessing enough of the sun's power to be off the grid—that is, completely independent of municipal utilities. While Ed can't seem to get enough of the sun's power, for the last decade or so some of the world's fish have been getting a bit too much of it. That's right: in the oceans around Britain, our finned friends are actually getting sunburns.
It is no surprise to researchers that fish can get sunburned, even though until more recent years they have not been observed to in the wild. In the lab, however, is quite a different thing. In the late 1980s, skin cancer researchers began testing different strengths of ultraviolet radiation on fish. Those who were exposed to too much radiation developed tumors and eventually perished. As you may have guessed, ozone layer depletion is the culprit behind the fishy sunburns being seen around Britain. Because of it, the sun's damaging ultraviolet rays beat down with increasing strength, which can be a problem in water shallow enough for them to penetrate. This is the same reason why many fish farmers grapple with piscine sunburns in their shallow-water tanks.
Unfortunately unlike us, fish don't have the option of applying SPF 45 and the results have been showing up in not just saltwater fish, but also freshwater fish and some shellfish. Increased solar strength affects fish fry the most, since the ozone layer is particularly thin in the springtime when fish spawn. Because developing fish breathe through their skin-gills come later-sunburns can impair their oxygen intake and stunt their growth. There is also evidence that excessive ultraviolet radiation can cause damage to fish embryos' DNA, killing them before they have a chance to mature.
In addition to causing sunburn and other directly solar-related injuries, the high concentration of ultraviolet rays hitting the seas can strengthen toxins that are already present, resulting in super-potent toxins. Also, as researchers have found more recently, the greenhouse-gas-emissions-caused acidification of the oceans is threatening to corrode marine organisms' shells. Are we headed for seas filled with the likes of the three-eyed fish from "The Simpsons?" Hopefully not if we keep making strides towards reducing our carbon footprints and harnessing the sun's power for good like our favorite actor-activist.
This post was inspired by Living with Ed..