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Sashimi From Scientific Whales

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Sashimi From Scientific Whales

“Someone should not be able to walk into a restaurant and order a plate of an endangered species,” said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. in reference to the discovery that a prominent Los Angeles sushi restaurant, The Hump, was illegally selling raw whale meat last October.

An international team of Oregon State University scientists, documentary filmmakers and environmental advocates uncovered the illegal trade in whalemeat. And now in a newly published paper, genetic analysis of the sashimi has confirmed that the raw meat, purchased by filmmakers of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” came from a sei whale which appears to have come 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.”

In the early 1980s, the International Whaling Commission determined that there should be a moratorium on commercial whale hunting. However, whaling is allowed under international law when done for scientific reasons, which Japan cites as the legal basis for its hunts–the very controversial practice is responsible for the death of up to 1,000 annually.

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.

116 comments

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10:02AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

These Japanese need to abandon this disgraceful tradition of hunting and eating Whale meat and find something not endangered to chomp down on...thanks.

7:14AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Scientific????!!!!

9:53AM PDT on Oct 31, 2012

That's the cruel truth of the Japan whale killing for "research"... their research is about who will pay more for their meat. As allways it's just about the money...

2:47AM PDT on May 2, 2012

Disgusting.

3:36PM PST on Feb 26, 2012

I agree with Lisa M...certain things are happening on this planet because others want something--and they don't care what they have to do to get it. If it wasn't wanted--same as rhino horn, bear bile, etc---because individuals believe those things can do something for them--there wouldn't be rhino killings or bear bile farms--or whale, horse, or dolphin on menus. Reading about this disgusting restaurant reminds me of a movie called 'The Freshman' with Marlon Brando and Matthew Broderick. Part of the movie has this big fancy dinner where people have paid tons of money to eat exotic animals. One was alligator (not so exotic anymore I guess >

8:19AM PST on Feb 26, 2012

Ew

2:59PM PST on Feb 25, 2012

Sick.

4:16AM PDT on Mar 15, 2011

It is nothing to do with science but it is just only human greed.

9:46AM PST on Jan 11, 2011

I'm not sure what's worse; Japan lying about using the captured whales to turn into meat, or Norway and Iceland not even having the decency to feel ashamed for their whaling habits.

5:51AM PDT on Oct 29, 2010

Thanks for the article.

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