why do sharks have oil in their liver

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Where does it come from? A United Nations report lists more than that are fished for their oil, several of which are currently listed on the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Red List. Deep sea sharks are especially valued for their livers,. The high concentration of oil in the sharks' livers is integral to their survival at deep depths: many fish sport a gas-filled organ known as a swim bladder that helps the creature control its buoyancy in the depths of the ocean.


Most deep-sea sharks, however, lack the swim bladder. Instead, an oily liver (which is less dense than water) is responsible for helping the shark maintain its buoyancy within the water column without having to expend energy to swim. Depending on the species, a shark's oily liver can comprise up to 20% of its body weight, making deep-sea sharks a prime target for fishermen looking to harvest squalene. A pound of the substance can go for almost $7 -- more than double the price of many supermarket meats. Due to its high value, a shark's liver is sometimes the only part of the shark that commercial fishing operations harvest. We've all heard of shark finning -- now some conservation organizations report a similar phenomenon known as " ", a brutal and wasteful process in which a shark's liver is harvested while the rest of the animal's carcass is thrown back into the ocean. As is the case with many valued commodities, the demand for liver oil far outpaces the supply.


French conservation organization Bloom that more than 3 million sharks are caught each year specifically for their liver oil. Deep sea sharks, however, have a slow life cycle: the creatures reproduce infrequently and grow slowly. When the sharks are fished at unsustainable rates (as they are currently), populations are unable to rebound and quickly fall victim to overfishing. Despite the ecological implications of shark oil harvesting, the practice continues unabated: Bloom reports that up to 2,200 tons of liver oil were harvested in 2012, 90% of which made its way into cosmetic products (the compound is also used in vaccines and other medical products). There are abundant alternatives to shark oil. Nearly identical oils can be derived from olives, wheat germ and amaranth. However, alternative oils are approximately 30% more expensive than shark oil.

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