Sushi restaurant accused of selling Sei whale sushi

Sei Whale rendering. From Wikimedia Commons.

A Santa Monica, CA, sushi establishment has been caught red-handed selling black market whale meat in their sushi.  Currently, only a small handful of countries, such as in Canada and the U.S., actively hunt whales, and most have that activity confined to indigenous people, as some Amer-Indian groups still harvest a few whales every year.  Whale conservation, along with dolphin conservation, has become something of a cause célèbre, and a lot of fast cash has gone into whale or dolphin causes.

The Hump stung with help from makers of The Cove

A hip sushi hangout called The Hump, had been buying sei whale meat illegally and selling it.  According to an article on CNN, two members of the film making team behind the recent dolphin fishing, visited the restaurant in October of 2009.  They saw and ordered whale off the menu, and that’s what they were served.  Samples of the meat were bagged and sent out for sampling after a visit in February, where the whale meat was confirmed as being Sei Whale. The black market price of Sei meat would send you running for fast cash loans, if you bought much of it.  The authorities were tipped off in October, and the follow-up visit in February produced samples of the meat which was tested and confirmed – though no word yet on whether they actually tried it. The sting took place in early March.

A small bit on Sei Whales

Sei whales are the third largest of the baleen whales, the largest animals on earth.  Sei whales range the entire globe, growing upwards of 60 feet in length and weigh up to 50 tons.  They are considered an endangered species.  Possessing or selling meat from an endangered species is a misdemeanor in the U.S., carrying fines up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for businesses.

The chef admitted it

The sushi chef of the restaurant, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, was videotaped retrieving a parcel from the trunk of a Mercedes, believed to be whale meat. He was charged with illegal sale of a marine mammal, along with the parent company, Typhoon Restaurants, Inc. The restaurant has promised to take responsibility in every manner possible and pay any and all fines. The ultimate ironic twist is that Santa Monica is known for it’s green initiatives, and the restaurant is located in the greener district of the city.

What to do about whaling

Whale has been a delicacy in Japan for centuries, as well as several nations, such as Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands.  The few groups that are still permitted to hunt whales are usually indigenous populations, such as  Greenland, Canada, the U.S, and Siberia.

Whale and dolphin conservation has become a cause célèbre,  intensifying in the last few years with the Whale Wars series, and other media. Some have speculated that many dolphin/whale conservation movements have their impetus in portrayals of the creatures on television and in films, though that view is regarded as cynical. It is not likely the practice will ever cease, though it has severely diminished. Whale populations have grown dramatically over the last 50 years, and not a single species of dolphin or porpoise appears on the endangered species list.