The filmmakers behind The Cove—the Oscar-winning documentary about the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan—got together with law enforcement and scientists to bust a California restaurant that illegally sells whale sushi.
From the NYT:
Mr. Hambleton, who has worked as a water safety consultant on Hollywood movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” created a tiny camera for two animal-activist associates to wear during a monster session of omakase — a sushi meal in which the chef picks all the dishes.
Video of their meal shows the two activists, both vegan, being served what the waitress can be heard calling “whale” — thick pink slices — that they take squeamish bites of before tossing into a Ziploc bag in a purse.
DNA tests confirmed the meat as Sei whale, an endangered species hunted for "research" by whalers in Iceland and Japan. I'm not opposed to hunting and eating animals per se, but illegally serving an endangered species at a $600 dinner for two is clearly a problem.
As for Taiji—it's one of Japan's most depressing cities. I was reluctantly taken there by an older Japanese couple, neighbors of mine at the time, who wanted to show me a fun overnight trip. It was sadder than the worst zoo you've ever visited. The old folks smiled and nodded and showed me dolphins kept in pathetically small tanks and pens. I'm not proud to say that I ate a little whale meat (cooked at an outdoor, broil-your-own barbecue place) to make them happy. (For the curious: It was rich and dense, clearly mammalian, with a little liver-like muskiness. If sadness had a flavor, it would taste like that whale meat in Taiji.)
Ironically, all the international pressure on Japan might be helping the whale trade, at least domestically. It's become a issue of national sovereignty and pride for the older generation, but it's not like people are clamoring for it. From an article in 2006:
Japan has enticed children with whale burger school lunches, sung the praises of the red meat in colorful pamphlets, and declared whale hunting "a national heritage."
The result is an unprecedented glut of whale meat. Prices — once about $15 a pound — are plunging, inventories are bursting, and promoters are scrambling to get Japanese to eat more whale.
"To put it simply, whale meat tastes horrible," said 30-year-old Kosuke Nakamura, one of the diners at a Hana No Mai restaurant in Tokyo who turned their noses up at whale meat.