Lily Cole raises awareness on the use of shark liver oil in the cosmetic industry

Lily Cole is not only one of Britain’s most successful models, but she is also activist who uses her popularity to promote environmental causes and her latest foray into green activism is to raise awareness of the use of shark livers in the cosmetic industry.

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Sharks are currently being fished for their fins and meat which are mostly sold to markets in the Far East, but certain species of deep sea sharks are becoming an endangered species, because of rising demand for their livers.

Shark livers contain a valuable oil called squalene, that is used in the cosmetic industry and can be found in products ranging from anti-aging cream to lip gloss because it is natural, oil-free moisturizer, but it also sold as a fish oil dietary supplement.

Deep sea sharks live in ocean depths of 300 to 1500 meters and they produce the oil because they lack a swim bladder, so they accumulate the oily substance in their livers which regulates their buoyancy, and oil from certain species can fetch up to £18,000 a ton.

Squalene is also found in other sources including olives, rice bran, wheat germ, and amaranth seeds, but the largest concentrationcomes from shark livers.

Cole spoke out against the use of squalene during the Hay Festival last week and called on the EU to force manufacturers to label products containing shark liver because at the present it is not required by law.

When people are made aware of this and understand the issue the can then make informed choices," said Cole, "and markets always follow consumers".

Alannah Weston, creative director of Selfridge, also present, announced a campaign on the issue and has banned any product containing shark squalene from the department store.

'Sharks are now among the most vulnerable species in the ocean,' said Weston. 'The unrestricted killing of sharks is just another example of human destruction of the ocean and its creatures.'

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Elizabeth Griffin, marine wildlife scientist at Oceana, an international ocean conservation group based in Washington, D.C. talking about squalene said, “Many of the world’s shark populations are collapsing, and the use of shark products for commercial purposes is the greatest threat to their survival. I doubt most people who use cosmetic products would do so if they knew they were supporting the death of countless sharks and causing harm to the oceans. The cosmetics industry has a responsibility to educate consumers about what they are putting on their faces.”

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