This Monday, the world found out about the illegal sale of Sei Whale sushi in Hump restaurant in Santa Monica. The people who discovered this offense are the same people who brought you the Academy Award winning documentary, The Cove. The sale of whale meat in the US it is a direct violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Since the Sei whale is an endangered species, this is a federal offense and could result in a year in prison and fine up to $20,000, not to mention a ruined reputation for the restaurant.
The article in the New York Times goes in depth about the team stashing the sushi in plastic bags so they could perform DNA testing on the sushi to find it's origin. Sei whales are hunted in the North Pacific Ocean by Japanese whalers under a special permit from the International Whaling Commission (IWC). In 2008, the Japanese whalers had a quota for 340 minke whales, 50 Bryde's whales, 100 sei whales and 10 sperm whales. Commercial whaling for the sei whale in the North Pacific was banned in 1976, yet Japanese whalers are allowed special permits because they say they are hunting these whales for 'research' on their feeding habits. The Japanese government is reported to subsidize their operations with millions of dollars each year, despite the whale catch being sold commercially by the research program.
We hope this story will spread so people will become aware of the hidden secrets of sushi restaurants such as The Hump and to inspire people to ask more about the fish they are eating and where it came from. As consumers, we have the power to make the difference.