I wasn’t always such a shark lover. After watching Jaws as a child, I refused to go in the swimming pool for weeks. Those days are long gone though and I have become an avid shark advocate.
As I am sure you are all aware there is a war on sharks right now. A full blown war that sharks, all types of sharks are facing. They are caught for their fins, their oily livers, used for food and of course because they are perceived to be big, bad, human eating predators.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that 50% of sharks are threatened or near threatened (http://www.iucnredlist.org/). The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ is the world’s most comprehensive inventory of the global conservation status of plant and animal species. It uses a set of criteria to evaluate the extinction risk of thousands of species and subspecies. These criteria are relevant to all species and all regions of the world. With its strong scientific base, the IUCN Red List is recognized as the most authoritative guide to the status of biological diversity.
Shark liver oil is sometimes used in cosmetics and vaccines. So a shark may have died for your vanity. Many brands of sunscreen, make up and moisturizers contain shark liver oil or squalene. It’s favoured for it’s moisturizing properties. A United Nations report lists more than 50 shark species that are fished for their oil, several of which are currently listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List. Sharks have oily livers which helps them maintain their buoyancy without the need for an air bladder. There are lots of alternatives to squalene, including olive oil or wheat germ. However alternatives are usually more expensive than shark oil. Like Unilever, L’Oreal is currently completing the phase-out of production with shark-based squalene and its substitution with the plant-based ingredient. Beiersdorf, LVMH, Henkel, Boots, Clarins, Sisley and La Mer (an Estée Lauder brand) also have either made the decision to stop using shark-based squalene or had a policy to never use it in the first place, according to information the European headquarters of these companies provided to Oceana.
Sharks are also prized for their fins, which is made into shark fin soup. Shark finning targets 23-73 million sharks a year and the majority of the shark is thrown back in the ocean. Less than 10% of the shark is used, it is extremely wasteful. Many finning operations are illegal operations and most sharks are alive when their fins are cut off and they are thrown back in the ocean to drown. The top shark fin importers are Hong Kong (58%) and China(38%). The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization identified the top 20 countries that are responsible for 80% of the Global Shark Catch. Indonesia, India, Spain and Taiwan account for over 35% of that catch. These figures are also probably a conservative estimate of what is actually going on.
Sharks are slow to reproduce with most species of sharks only reaching sexual maturity after 12-15 years. They also have a lengthy pregnancy of 9 to 22 months with a resting period between litters. Furthering the shark crisis.