Unilever ends the use of shark
products in its cosmetics
February 10, 2008
Madrid -- Oceana, the international marine conservation
organisation, is engaged in a campaign to end of the use of shark
liver oil, known as squalene, in cosmetics products. Europe is a
major force in the production and trade of squalene, and the
campaign has included investigative visits to fishing ports and
cosmetics shops, and discussions with cosmetic companies and
squalene manufacturers, to gather information about uses, trade
and markets for this product and the sharks it comes from.
Oceana has received notice that Unilever, a multinational company
famous for many brands of food, personal care and household
products, has decided to remove shark squalene from its cosmetic
brands, including Pond’s and Dove, and will replace it with a
plant-based version. According to Unilever, the new production
will begin early this year and new formulations are expected to
appear on market shelves beginning April 2008.
Squalene is an organic compound found in certain animal and plant
sources, and is used as an emollient in various cosmetic products,
such as creams, lotions and glosses. Squalene oil can be harvested
from the livers of sharks, where it is found in great quantities.
Deep-sea sharks (those living in ocean depths of 300 to 1500
metres) have especially large reserves of squalene, as their
livers can comprise up to one-third of the weight of the entire
animal. Consequently, deep-sea sharks are often caught
specifically for their squalene oil. The excessive catches of
these animals have contributed to dramatic population declines of
certain species, some of which are on the IUCN Red List of
threatened species. Oceana has been campaigning to end the
wasteful deep-sea gillnet fishery for sharks in the Northeast
Atlantic since 2005.
Shark-based squalene has a readily available substitute on the
market that comes from a purely vegetable origin. Squalene can be
obtained from olives (a component of olive oil) and it has the
same qualities of animal-based squalene and is less expensive than
the animal version.
With the decision to end using shark-based squalene, Unilever has
joined other European-based cosmetic companies that informed
Oceana that they do not use this product from threatened animals
and prefer sustainable plant-based sources. Like Unilever, L’Oreal
is currently completing phase-out of production with shark-based
squalene and its substitution with the plant-basted ingredient.
Beiersdorf, LVMH, Henkel, Boots, Clarins, Sisley and La Mer (an
Estée Lauder brand) have either made the decision to stop using
animal-based squalene or had a policy to never use it in the first
place, according to the information these companies provided to
Sharks are species which play a crucial role in the balance and
health of marine ecosystems but, due to their particular
biological characteristics, they are especially vulnerable to
overfishing. Sharks, and in particular deep-sea species, are
slow-growing, long-lived, and produce few young. Often, their
populations can not recover from the same rate at which they are
exploited and today over one-third of European shark and related
ray populations are threatened with extinction. Sharks are
considered target species in many industrial fisheries around the
world, and are also frequently caught as by-catch in fisheries
targeting other species.