Whale meat in sushi restaurants came from Japan


4 species of whale + 1 dolphin on this plate

An international team of Oregon State University scientists, documentary filmmakers and environmental advocates has uncovered an apparent illegal trade in whalemeat, linking whales killed in Japan’s controversial scientific whaling program to sushi restaurants in Seoul, South Korea, and Los Angeles, Calif.

Genetic analysis of sashimi served at a prominent Los Angeles sushi restaurant in October of 2009 has confirmed that the strips of raw meat purchased by filmmakers of the Oscar-winning documentary, “The Cove,” came from a sei whale – most likely from Japanese “scientific whaling.”

“The sequences were identical to sei whale products that had previously been purchased in Japan in 2007 and 2008, which means they not only came from the same area of the ocean – but possibly from the same distinct population,” said Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, who conducted the analysis.

“And since the international moratorium on commercial hunting (1986), there has been no other known source of sei whales available commercially other than in Japan,” Baker added. “This underscores the very real problem of the illegal international trade of whalemeat products.

“Our ability to use genetics as a tool to monitor whale populations around the world has advanced significantly over the past few years,” Baker said, “but unless we have access to all of the data – including those whales killed under Japan’s scientific whaling – we cannot provide resource managers with the best possible science.

The hypocrisy and deceit of fishery managers in Japan matches the lowest standards in commercial history. It will take individuals around the world voting with their non-purchase of Japanese goods to change things.

Fortunately, most governments haven’t figured out how to make boycotts illegal. Though some have tried.

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