New Study Links Endangered Whale Meat With Japan, Possible Illegal Trading
Remember about a month ago, when a couple of activists went undercover at The Hump restaurant in California and exposed their whale sushi operation? Well, since then there has been some rather interesting developments in the case.
A study published in Biology Letters, shows that the whale sushi used at The Hump—along with whale meat also used at a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea—can be linked to Japanese whaling. Although Japan does its whaling under the guise of “scientific research”, they do not hide the fact that the meat is also sold to Japanese shops and restaurants. However, the trading of whale meat is not allowed with countries that have signed provisions protecting whales under CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
The recent study compared DNA from strips of raw meat purchased at The Hump with Sei Whale (the whale sushi sold at The Hump) meat previously bought in Japan between 2007 and 2008. It confirmed that the two DNA strands had identical sequences. Lead study author and professor of the Marine Mammal Institute, Scott Baker, explained:
“Since the international moratorium on commercial [whale] hunting [in 1986], there has been no other known source of Sei Whales available commercially other than in Japan.”
On top of the incident at The Hump, there were also 13 whale products purchased on 2 occasions in June and September of last year in Seoul, South Korea. Four of the products came fro the Antarctic Minke Whale, 4 from a Sei Whale, 3 from a North Pacific Minke, 1 from a Fin Whale, and 1 from a Risso’s Dolphin. Out of all 13 whales, the Sei and Fin whales are endangered species and the DNA of the Fin Whale meat genetically matched meat that was purchased from a Japanese market in 2007. Baker commented:
“Since the international moratorium, it has been assumed that there is no international trade in whale products. But when products from the same whale are sold in Japan in 2007 and Korea in 2009, it suggests that international trade, though illegal, is still an issue.” … “Likewise, the Antarctic Minke Whale is not found in Korean waters, but it is hunted by Japan’s controversial scientific whaling program in the Antarctic. How did it show up in a restaurant in Seoul?”
Whales are listed under Appendix 1 of CITES, which means they cannot be traded internationally for commercial purposes. Since these incidents may be violating these provisions, Baker has filed a request with the Japanese government to access a DNA register of caught whales, which will be used in the genetic tracking of illegally-traded whale meat.
By Heidi Marshall