What’s Paradoxical about Shark Squalene?

By all accounts Covid-19 was transferred to humans from an animal low on the food chain, say, a bat or a pangolin. When there’s a decline in populations of top predators, including sharks, in any ecosystem, populations at the lower end of a food chain — like rats and mice, bats and pangolins – increase, causing ecosystems to collapse.

Another contributing factor in Covid transmission is the destruction of animal habitats, displacing animals by encroaching on their habitat or destroying it, as with deforestation., bringing animals and humans into closer contact than either side is comfortable with. As we’re all living so much closer together, humans are catching more zoonotic – animal to human – diseases: SARS, MERS, HIV, Ebola and now Covid.

The most promising Covid vaccine being tested contains squalene, produced by everyone’s sebaceous glands, and in this case derived from shark liver. Billions of people potentially clamoring for this vaccine bodes ill for sharks as well as for ocean ecosystems. Though we don’t need to worry about scallops and minnows moving next door to us, where sharks are overfished in an area, the ray populations increase and prey on and decimate the scallop population, hurting the ecosystem as well as the economy.

So, the paradox is that while we can cure humans by killing sharks, we’ll simultaneously damage large parts of the oceans’ ecosystems, leading to the type of situation that brought us Covid. Maybe the fish we eat will carry disease, or maybe the water itself.

What can we do about this? If squalene works, we can advocate for new trials with substitute squalene. Meanwhile we can insist on legal limits on development and sprawl that’s eating up farmland and support legislation that protects wetlands, forests, and all the waterways including oceans.

The collective will of Earth’s minerals, plants and animals seems to be that humans have done enough screwing up and they’re fed up with us. We need to pay attention, hear the message and help them out.

2 thoughts on “What’s Paradoxical about Shark Squalene?”

    1. Hi Sonia,
      It’s fun seeing. you here!
      Yes, it’s interesting how delicate is the balance and how complex are the inter-species relationships. The European cultures that have colonized the world for hundreds of years made great strides in scientific discovery and technology creation which brought great wealth and power. But at some point, we all need to stop and assess the costs — what have we already lost and what are we in danger of losing forever? “The New Yorker Radio Hour” 10-30-2020, aired a segment, “Bill McKibben on the Trumpocene”, about all the environmental regulations that the current administration has undone. We all have work to do on this!

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