Forensic Proof Shows Japanese Whale Meat Is Being Sold in the US

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Whale meat sushi.

Scientists have used genetic fingerprinting to prove that whale meat found being sold at the Los Angeles restaurant The Hump came from the same sei whale that was sold in Japan in 2007. The sei whale is on the brink of extinction, and the LA restaurant caught serving the black market meat has been forced to close. But the most startling development is perhaps the fact that this evidence leads investigators to the unfortunate conclusion that the illegal whale meat trade is indeed still thriving.The BBC has the story:

A team of scientists, film-makers and environmental advocates say they collected samples of whale meat being sold in sushi restaurants in both the US and South Korea late last year. A genetic analysis of meat found in Los Angeles showed that it was identical to meat from a sei whale being sold in Japan in 2007 ... Criminal proceedings have started against the Los Angeles restaurant caught selling the whale meat.

Japanese whale meat has also been identified in an unnamed eatery in the South Korean capital of Seoul. Specimens gathered there too have been determined to be genetically identical to whale meat bought in Japanese markets three years ago.


The Hump. Photo via Soshiok

The scientists and advocates say that Japan should be forced to set up a reliable monitoring system to ensure that whale meat doesn't make it to the black market.

Ever since 1986, the international trade of whale meat has been banned between countries that signed that year's document produced by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES (CITES was in the news a bunch earlier this year too, but for failing to protect the trade of just about every endangered species imaginable--at least they banned ivory). And yet, people evidently love them some endangered whale meat.

As the saying I just made up goes, "If it's on the brink of extinction, you've got to eat it at least once."