Whales caught under Japan ’s so called scientific whaling program are ending up in sushi restaurants in the United Sates and South Korea , a new scientific study has found.
The study, published in the journal Biology Letters, found three whale species currently caught under Japan ’s controversial program, but protected from international trade, were ending up on the tables of Japanese restaurants in Seoul and Los Angeles .
It found through DNA analysis that fin, sei and Antarctic minke whales were being sold for sushi despite the whales being protected.
The analysis also found that it was highly probable that meat from the same individual fin whale was being sold in Japanese markets and South Korean restaurants in 2009, despite the trade being illegal.
Whalemeat analysed in the study was purchased from restaurants in Los Angeles in October 2009 and in Seoul in June and September 2009 and taken to laboratories for DNA identification.
The hunting of whales is regulated by the International Whaling Commission and the trade in whale products is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES).
The study’s authors, led by Scott Baker from the Oregon State University , concluded that the history of commercial whaling “provided little assurance that international agreements would be honoured without an independent, transparent and robust system of monitoring.”
“Given the number of ongoing and emerging exceptions to the hunting of whales and to the trade in whale products, there is an urgent need for effective measures to verify authorised catch limits and trade records, and to detect infractions,” the authors said.
They said a verified match of DNA profiles taken from the sei, fin and Antarctic minke whalemeat to those held by the Japanese would “confirm an infraction of the CITES regulations on trade in whale products.”
“Alternatively, the absence of a match of one or more products would implicate an unknown source of illegal, unreported or unregulated whaling, a situation requiring urgent investigation.”
Australian director of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Jeff Hansen said the findings “came as no surprise.”
“We have known for a while that the whale meat that is taken under the guise of scientific research does end up in restaurants,” Hansen said.
– JANE HAMMOND