SANTA MONICA, Calif. — It is sport among black belt sushi eaters here to see just how daring one’s palate can be. But even among the squid-chomping, roe-eating and uni-nibbling fans, whale is almost unheard of on the plate. It also happens to be illegal.
Yet with video cameras and tiny microphones, the team behind Sunday’s Oscar-winning documentary film “The Cove” orchestrated a Hollywood-meets-Greenpeace-style covert operation to ferret out what the authorities say is illegal whale meat at one of this town’s most highly regarded sushi destinations.
What did they find? Was it Minke Whale, one of the most abundant whale species and the target of most of Japan's "scientific" whaling program?
Video of their meal shows the two activists, both vegan, being served what the waitress can be heard calling “whale” — thick pink slices — that they take squeamish bites of before tossing into a Ziploc bag in a purse.
The samples were sent to Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. Professor Baker said DNA testing there revealed that the samples sent to him were from a Sei whale, which are found worldwide and are endangered but are sometimes hunted in the North Pacific under a controversial Japanese scientific program. “I’ve been doing this for years,” Professor Baker said. “I was pretty shocked.”
It is shocking because it's illegal but probably much more commonly consumed locally according to a source from the restaurant.
Our source said that whale meat is also known to be available at smaller, more-private sushi establishments in the Japanese-American enclaves of Torrance and Gardena. He said he wouldn't be surprised if some of the city's more famed sushi chefs also served it discretely to special customers, although he said he had no specific knowledge of this happening.
And according to the AP charges have been filed against the restaurant and the Sushi Chef by Federal prosecutors, "with illegally selling an endangered species product, a misdemeanor."
Such a strange story to me, that we openly eat many unsustainably caught and endangered fish, such as Bluefin Tuna, Chilean Seabass, Atlantic Halibut and Atlantic Cod, Orange Roughy and fresh water Eel are just some examples. But they are still legal to eat!
But Whale? And the where does it come from? Most likely Japan.
Commercial whaling has been banned worldwide since 1986, but Japan justifies its hunts as scientific research, while not hiding the fact that the whale meat is later sold in shops and restaurants.
The Japanese seem to have grown weary of the continued protest of their whaling
Japan will propose scaling down its troubled annual whale hunt in Antarctica on condition it is allowed to whale commercially in its own coastal waters, a fisheries official said Wednesday.
Tokyo will present its proposal to the International Whaling Commission at its annual meeting in Morocco in June, the official said, even though a similar plan was rejected by the 85-nation body last year.
But why should they stop whaling, it's technically legal and now we know, there is a demand for Whale meat outside of Japan.
So here what was secretly on the menu...
I find myself at a loss tonight.