Over the holidays I got a series of emails from well meaning shark folks asking to join the march against squalene use in vaccines.
Squalene comes from sharks livers and is used in vaccines like the H1N1 vaccine produced by GLAXO pharmacuticals. It is also used in the cosmetics industry.
You can also get squalene from olive oil, and as I came to discover this week humans actually secrete squalene daily.
The question I wanted to know was how many sharks were being killed and did we have any hard data, or was this another of the well meaning series of "save the shark" campaigns based on an emotional appeal.
Here's what I discovered:
Canadian H1N1 vaccine contains (per dose) 3.8 micrograms of viral protein (HA) and 5 micrograms of preservative solution mixed with 12 milligrams of Vitamin E, 11 milligrams of squalene, and 5 milligrams of Polysorbate 80.
According to the best research available and a study in the Journal Of Lipid Research an average person secretes 125 – 475 milligrams of squalene per day from their skin.
The question is - how many shark livers do you need to produce just 5 milligrams of squalene per dose of vaccine?
Granted we're talking millions of doses a high percentage of which have been cut in half due to vaccine shortages. Does anyone have hard numbers of sharks caught for squalene or is this another "save the" campaign without data?
The point I am making is this. If the shark conservation movement is to be successful in next decade we will have to carefully plan and execute our campaigns. The previous decade was full of "save the shark" campaigns that were either made up out of whole cloth, or had serious data shortages.
We can best effect lasting change if we approach our campaign appeals with embedded and researched data. That means getting down to work and unveiling the numbers or at least attaching the campaign to a place where sharks are being harvested for their livers to effect change there.
This blog covered one such place in 2008.
Since that time nothing has been done to effect lasting change to the sharks taken at this site and the current "save the sharks from squalene" rings a bit hollow unless we can bring about measurable change to entire regions and fishermen such as these.
The previous decade was about "shark awareness" this decade has to be about "shark action."
That's not to say these campaigns are not well meaning. Clearly they are. The question the shark conservation movement needs to ask at this time is "what are we in this for?"
We're in it to for actual changes. Change takes strategy, data, and clear metrics for success.
Patric Douglas CEO