CORVALLIS, Ore. 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."
Results of the study were published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters.
"The Cove" director Louie Psihoyos and assistant director Charles Hambleton gained the attention of international news media recently by covertly filming the serving of whale products at The Hump restaurant. Following initial identification of the samples taken from the restaurant, the products were turned over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's law enforcement division and in March, federal prosecutors filed a criminal complaint against the restaurant, which since has closed.
Baker said the samples taken from The Hump cannot conclusively be linked to an individual whale because genetic
|Contact: Scott Baker|
Oregon State University