(EnviroNews World News) — PETITION WATCH: As the worldwide race to find a COVID-19 vaccine continues, one conservation group worries 500,000 sharks could die as a result of the process.
Shark Allies says squalene, a compound harvested from shark liver oil, is used in many vaccines as an adjuvant to boost their effectiveness. And while all people, animals, and plants produce the substance, the group says, “Squalene made from shark liver oil is used most commonly because it is cheap to obtain and easy to come by, not because it is more effective than other sources.”
The nonprofit just launched an online petition asking the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), government regulators in other countries and vaccine manufacturers to use sustainable squalene derived from plants, not animals.
“Using sharks in COVID-19 vaccines is short-sighted, unpredictable, and unsustainable. There are better alternatives. The industry must listen,” the group’s petition headlines.
Shark Allies estimates if shark squalene is used to fulfill worldwide demand for a COVID-19 vaccination, nearly a half-million of the ancient animals will die — a number the petition warns would result in disaster. The NGO says it has confirmed shark squalene is being tested in some COVID-19 vaccinations.
“This resource is neither sustainable nor reliable for the mass production of a COVID-19 vaccine,” the petition states. “Shark squalene production requires relying on a finite, wild animal population. Most shark species are already at critical levels and will not withstand an increase in demand for a global vaccine.”
The FDA’s website lists shark squalene as an approved vaccination adjuvant and says shark liver oil is the primary source of squalene used in one type of bird flu vaccination, writing, “The squalene in this vaccine is also derived from the liver of sharks and is highly purified for the vaccine manufacturing process.” The World Health Organization (WHO) also lists shark liver oil as a top vaccine adjuvant.
Offering alternatives, Shark Allies says squalene can also be derived from yeast, bacteria, sugarcane, olive oil, and possibly algae — it just takes a little longer.
The group urges people to sign its petition, fearing if sharks are overfished, the world’s ecosystem will be changed forever. The petition states:
The supply chain has never been tested at the scale that a coronavirus vaccine would demand. There is also very little quality control and transparency in the shark squalene industry. In a nutshell, exploiting sharks for a key vaccine ingredient that can be derived from more sustainable and reliable non-animal alternatives is a detrimental and destructive approach.
Shark Allies’ initial goal was to get 50,000 signatures. The NGO has already surpassed that benchmark and has now set a new target at 75,000. People are signing on quickly. EnviroNews watched the number increase from 38,000 to 49,000 signatures in the span of just a few hours. To view the petition on Change.org readers can click here.