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Venice businesses turn fossils and sharks’ teeth into lasting memories

Venice businesses turn fossils and sharks’ teeth into lasting memories


VENICE – When Visit Sarasota County wants to differentiate south Sarasota County beaches from the rest of the state, they quickly point to the Venice area and the pastime of searching sand near the surf for fossilized shark teeth.

 “It’s very important,” Visit Sarasota Vice President Erin Duggan said. Many beach communities have fine restaurants, she said, but, “talking about the shark’s tooth draw and Venice being the shark’s tooth capital of the world, it’s always given us something to differentiate us from other beach locations.”

On its web site, Visit Sarasota County points to the beaches from Casey Key south to Manasota Key as wonderful places to search for shark’s teeth, but south Brohard Beach and Caspersen Beach stand out for the sheer quantity of teeth – though shark tooth and fossil aficionados are quick to point out that prized large fossilized megalodon teeth are most frequently found by divers offshore.

“I personally have met plenty of people on the beach and you can tell when you see somebody on the beach looking for shark’s teeth,” Venice MainStreet CEO Kara Morgan said. “They come to Venice specifically for that, it certainty plays into the town’s identity and is something of

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Analysis: Could 500,000 sharks die for a COVID vaccine?

Analysis: Could 500,000 sharks die for a COVID vaccine?

This originally appeared as part of our daily coronavirus newsletter.
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Half-a-million sharks could die to provide the world with a coronavirus vaccine.

Why? Squalene, a chemical made from shark liver oil that is used in vaccines. It’s not necessarily more effective at boosting a vaccine’s efficacy than squalene found in other sources, according to conservation group Shark Allies, but it’s cheap.

It takes 3,000 sharks to produce 1 ton of shark squalene, according to Shark Allies, and the organization estimates that about 3 million sharks are killed already for the purpose every year.

Based on that organization’s math, 21,000 sharks would have to be killed to provide enough COVID-19 vaccine for every American citizen to get two doses. Scale that out globally and you are looking at about 490,000 dead sharks.

“This could spell potential disaster for sharks and humans since this resource is neither sustainable nor reliable for the mass production of a COVID-19 vaccine,” Shark Allies wrote on a petition. “Countries producing shark squalene may soon need the oil for their own vaccine. The supply chain has never been tested at the scale that a coronavirus vaccine would demand.”

It’s not a new issue. The World Health Organization has said that since 1997, 22 million doses of a flu vaccine containing shark-derived squalene have been administered globally.

But if a coronavirus vaccine using shark squalene is mass produced, Shark Allies and other conservationists worry that some species of the apex predator might not survive.

The good news is, it might not be necessary. Not all of the proposed COVID-19 vaccines contain squalene (used as an emulsifier) and the substance can be obtained from other sources, including plants.

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