About half a million sharks could be killed due to its natural oil, a substance that is in high demand and used in the development of vaccines against coronavirus, the warning was given by environmentalists cited by ‘Sky News’.
Squalene, a natural oil present in the liver of sharks, has been widely used in the components that constitute potential vaccines against Covid.19, since it increases the effectiveness of the drug in creating a stronger immune response.
The substance is usually used in medicine due to this advantage, in other diseases besides Covid-19, namely the flu. British pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline uses shark squalene in flu vaccines, for example.
The drugmaker said it planned to produce 1 billion doses of this component for potential use in vaccines against coronavirus in May 2021. It takes about 3,000 sharks to extract a ton of squalene.
Shark Allies, a California-based environmental group, suggests that if the world population were to receive a dose of Covid-19 vaccine with liver oil, it would be necessary to kill about 250,000 sharks, depending on the amount of squalene used.
If two doses are needed to immunize the population globally, which is likely to happen according to the researchers, the number of sharks sacrificed may even increase to half a million.
To avoid threatening shark populations, scientists are testing an alternative to squalene, a synthetic version made from fermented sugar cane. For Stefanie Brendl, founder and executive director of Shark Allies, “removing something from a wild animal will never be sustainable, especially if it is a top predator that does not breed in large numbers”.
“There are so many unknowns about how long this pandemic can last and how big it will be, that if we continue to use sharks, the number of animals caught for this product can be very high, year after year, after year”, warns the expert, quoted by Sky News.
According to estimates made by environmentalists, about three million sharks are killed each year due to squalene, which is also used in cosmetics and other oils. There are fears that a sudden increase in demand for liver oil could threaten populations and cause more species to be destroyed, with many already quite vulnerable.