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Pricey L.A. Sushi Bar Busted for Selling Whale Meat

Daniel Hinerfeld

Posted March 10, 2010

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Film director Louie Psihoyos called me last week to cancel a meeting we had scheduled for later that day.  He explained, apologetically, that he was working on an undercover investigation with law enforcement officers and preparations were taking longer than expected.  I laughed, told him that was a pretty good reason to miss our meeting, and wished him good luck.

Well, Louie has had quite a week since then. On Sunday, his feature documentary, The Cove, won the Oscar.  On Tuesday, news spread around the world that the sting operation he was working on secretly video-taped the illegal sale of whale meat at one of southern California’s most prominent sushi restaurants, The Hump.

Killing marine mammals is a federal crime, as is importation of marine mammal products.  Violators face fines and prison time.  Yesterday, my colleague Joel Reynolds, director of NRDC’s Marine Mammal Protection Project, wrote a letter to the Santa Monica City Council urging them to “take immediate action to investigate and, if the allegations are confirmed, take whatever actions are necessary to ensure that this activity will cease, including revoking the business license for this and any other restaurant that is serving or has served whale meat.”

I can’t imagine why anyone would want to eat these intelligent and majestic creatures.  Perhaps it’s safe to assume that the big spenders willing to throw down $600 for an “exotic” sushi dinner aren’t that concerned about the ethical use of animals.  But morals aside, there’s another reason marine mammals are a peculiar choice for dinner: their meat is toxic.

That’s right: whales and dolphins are at the top of the ocean food chain, where the toxins we blithely pump into the ocean become most highly concentrated.  So whales have insanely high concentrations of mercury, PCBs, DDT and other harmful toxins.  Poison on a plate.

I guess Hollywood’s cool patrol hasn’t read that memo yet.  Maybe Louie Psihoyos’ latest piece of daring journalism will wake them up.  Go Louie.

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xinunusMar 12 2010 12:35 AM


Russian agencies, quoting the government's press service, said Putin treated Obama to black caviar with sour cream, smoked beluga with pancakes and tea made in the traditional Russian samovar, a big coal-fired kettle.

IUCN classifies the beluga as Endangered. It is a protected species listed in appendix III of the Bern Convention and its trade is restricted under CITES appendix II. The Mediterranean population is strongly protected under appendix II of the Bern Convention, prohibiting any intentional killing of these fish.

The United States Fish and Wildlife Service has banned imports of Beluga Caviar and other beluga products from the Caspian Sea since October 6, 2005.

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