The people who made The Cove, the documentary about Japanese Dolphin slaughter that won an Academy Award Sunday, used some of the same techniques to bust a hipster Santa Monica sushi restaurant for selling whale, the New York Times reports. DNA tests confirmed that a $60 piece of sushi that The Hump sold as whale was in fact the endangered Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis). that $60 piece of sushi was sei whale.
DNA-testing sushi is now becoming a food investigation mainstay; it’s almost as popular and fun as finding e. coli at food carts. But normally the results are the opposite: the fish is not what the restaurant says. It’s a cheap substitute. In this case it was on the Omakase, or tasting menu, and the wait staff told the undercover diners they were eating whale, sometimes calling it by its Japanese name, kujira.
The food blog Shizuokasushi explains how whale is served casually in Japan, though usually sperm whales. Japan hunts about 100 sei whales a year under the guise of “research,” according to the IUCN Red List.
Louie Psihoyos, photographer and director of The Cove, worked with “director of clandestine operations” Charles Hambleton, who made tiny cameras for diners to wear–once for themselves and a second time for investigators. An affadavit from investigators describes a search of the restaurant and suggests the whale may have arrived via a Mercedes parked out back.
It won’t be as exciting as The Cove, but I sure hope they make video of the sting.