Shark populations are in decline around the world, some reduced by 50% in the last several decades. While much of that loss is due to illegal fishing and the slaughter of millions of sharks for their fins, there is more to tell. Have you ever heard of shark in your sunscreen?

underwater photographer, whale shark, whale sharks, marine life, conservation, ocean activist


You Might Be An Accomplice

shark cartilage cropped sharks and cancerEven if you don’t eat sharkfin soup you might inadvertently be an accomplice to shark loss. Here’s why:

Some energy drinks, vitamins, lipsticks, lotions and even pet supplements contain shark. You can also find them in leather products and car interiors. Shark is often mislabeled to mislead. This occurs especially often in food where shark has been sold as fish and chips.

Shark oil is also a common additive in dietary supplements, especially omega 3 capsules.

In What do Sharks and Cancer have in common? we focused on how shark cartilage is sold as a health supplement to prevent cancer. These supplements are responsible for the killing of 200,000 sharks per month in U.S. waters alone! And it is proven they have absolutely no medicinal value. (photo – Jones-Shimlock)


Shark In Your Sunscreen? Who Knew!

shark liver oil-skin-care--squalane-oil-shark in your sunscreenMany of your beauty products contain shark liver oil. This ingredient is commonly known as “squalene.” <<Click to Tweet>>

Because of It’s lubricating properties, it’s a favored additive in many popular sunscreens, lip glosses, eye makeup, and anti-aging creams.

Although squalene is a natural substance that also occurs in olive oil, wheat germ and sugar cane, for decades the most common and cheapest source has been shark liver oil.

Bloom, a French conservation group, estimates that more than 3 million sharks are fished annually for their liver oil. In 2012, 2,200 tons of shark liver oil was sourced. 90% went to the cosmetic industry.


Rare Deep Sea Sharks At Risk shark in your sunscreenRare, deep ocean sharks like basking sharks are especially at risk because they have higher concentrations of liver oil. Depending on the species, its oil can be 20% of its body weight. With a slower life cycle, deep sea sharks reproduce less frequently.

Since these species have been greatly overfished, they are unable to rebound and are frequently found on “threatened or endangered” lists. (photo – basking shark,


National Geographic reports that, “of the 60 shark species fished for their oil, 26, including the leafscale gulper shark, are listed as vulnerable to extinction.”


Squalene Alternatives

sharkweek lily williams shark in your sunscreenFor over a quarter century cosmetic companies have been aware of alternatives to squalene. However, since they are more expensive, squalene continues to be preferred.

Due to increasing public awareness led by an Oceana Campaign, cosmetic companies have been forced to reevaluate their products in light of the true cost to the marine environment. In 2008, Unilever and L’Oreal committed to discontinue squalene and use alternatives for their make-up and moisturizers.

Other cosmetic companies like Estee Lauder have followed their lead. Despite this, animal (shark) squalene continues to be found in many cosmetics and in nearly 50% of cosmetics manufactured in Asia. (art – Lily Williams,

Consumers can do more, by checking the ingredients in their cosmetics and let their retailers know that if they contain animal (shark) squalene, that it is unacceptable. See more in


Whale Sharks Butchered

In a related story, a three-year investigation revealed a factory in southeastern China that is illegally slaughtering about 600 basking sharks and whale sharks every year.

whale shark cut up in china wildlife risk shark in your sunscreenThe report from WildLife Risk indicates that this is happening even though whale sharks are a protected species under Chinese and International law.

It is not an easy matter to disguise the butchering of a 10-meter, 20-ton fish x 600. So, we must conclude that this is happening with the knowledge of local Chinese authorities. This raises questions regarding similar factories elsewhere that have not been uncovered.

“If they’re in fact processing 600 a year, that’s pretty horrifying,” says Robert Hueter, director of Shark Research at the Mote Marine Laboratory in Sarasota, Florida. Especially given that the worldwide population numbers in the thousands and is considered “vulnerable.”

Unfortunately, such a large fish is worth a lot, possibly as much as $30,000 each to a poacher. The slaughterhouse will sell the meat for food, the fins for shark fin soup, the oil for fish oil supplements and sunscreens, and the skin for handbags.

It’s almost impossible to imagine these magnificent creatures being slaughtered for handbags.



See Related Blue Ocean Posts on Shark Preservation:

Shark Week Again: Positive or Negative PR for Sharks?
Sea Shepherd Catches Illegal Chinese Shark Fishing
Shark Killing Banned in Florida
Tell Costa Rica No to Sale of Hammerhead Shark Fins
Ban the Trade in Shark Fins
Sea Shepherd Investigates Illegal Shark Fins Shipments
Air China Bans Shark Fin Cargo
Tell FedEx No to Shark Finning
Thai Airways Prohibits Shark Fins in Cargo
Hilton Worldwide Shark Fin Free at all 645 F&B Outlets
Make February 3, National Shark Day


How To Get More Ocean-Hearted Intel Delivered To Your Inbox!

We believe ocean lovers can change the world. If you care about the health of the ocean and want to do something about it, then connect with the Blue Ocean tribe: Our growing community of ocean change-makers is turning ocean lovers into ocean leaders. It starts with you. Join us!