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(Criminally) Fishy Sashimi

A paper published this week in The Royal Society's journal Biology Letters reveals genetic evidence for the illegal trade of protected whales in Japan, linked to the US and South Korea. An international research team, led by C. Scott Baker at Oregon State University, used mtDNA barcoding techniques to trace the origins of whale meat purchased in restaurants in Los Angeles and Seoul in 2009. After confirming that three species they identified were "killed in the controversial scientific whaling program of Japan" and also "protected from international trade," the team, and their documentary filmmaker collaborator, handed the products over to the proper authorities for further investigation. "I really didn't think it [the sashimi samples] was likely to be whale," Baker told Nature News, adding that he thinks illegal trade may be nearly impossible to stop, "but we have to adopt better methods for identifying it, tracking it and controlling it." Wired reports that one of the restaurants implicated in the whale meat trafficking has since closed. "The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species," according to the business' Web site. "Closing the restaurant is a self-imposed punishment on top of the fine that will be meted out by the court."

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