Rapid Analytical Response Enables Search Warrant in Whale Sushi Bust
On March 2, the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science laboratory in Charleston, SC provided a rapid genetic identification of suspect whale sushi seized in a NOAA Fisheries Office for Law Enforcement (OLE) investigation of a California restaurant. The meat was identified as that of an endangered sei whale, providing agents with probable cause to execute a search warrant on March 5.
The investigation received national media attention because the crew of the movie The Cove initially suspected the restaurant when they heard that whale was being served there, and then worked with OLE to make several undercover purchases at the restaurant, culminating in the seizure of the meat and subsequent criminal charges filed by the local U.S. Attorney’s office.
Whale meat has been forbidden on US menus since the 1970s, but apparently there is still a demand for it among some consumers.