But subsistence coastal whaling has little in common with the hunt today, which takes place in the Southern Ocean, in an area designated a whale sanctuary by the International Whaling Commission in 1994. The Japanese government spends copiously to support the huntreportedly some forty-five million in 2011, including funds intended for tsunami relief though it struggles to find a market for the meat, which, under the terms of their research exemption, they are obligated not to waste. In 2008, the government sold ten tons of whale at a discount to schools in Yokohama for 'Traditional School Lunch Week." Homey, old-fashioned, and not particularly prestigious, whale nonetheless commands a high price at specialty all-whale restaurants where everything from tongues to testicles are served. The tastier tail and belly cuts of the rarer baleen whales are sometimes available at fancy sushi bars. But a poll conducted by the International Fund for Animal Welfare in early 2013 showed that only ten per cent of Japanese had eaten whale in the previous year.
"The whale industry has nothing to do with whales," Casson Trenor, a former Sea Shepherd activist who in 2008 started what he believes to have been the world's first sustainable sushi bar, Tataki, in San Francisco. (Now you can eat sustainable sushi in Boise.) "It has to do with drawing a line in the sand about national sovereignty and resource management," he said. "The idea of other countries being able to determine what can and can't be taken from the ocean is anathema to the Japanese." To this way of thinking, Japan has created a baffle to distract Western conservation groups from the fishery it truly wants to shield from interference: bluefin.
When they got to the restaurant, Crystal chose a seat facing away from the bar, and put the purse with the camera in it on the table. On the chair next to her, she put her friend's purse, which had a gallon-size Ziploc bag inside it. They ordered omakase, chef's choice. After they had been eating for a few hours, her friend asked the waitress, in Japanese, for whale: kujira. According to Crystal, it came to the table, sliced very thin, on a glass plate, with special soy sauce, and accompanied by several pieces of dark reddish-brown sashimi that the waitress identified as horse, which has been illegal to serve to people in California since 1998. Crystal's friend, who was seated facing the bar, had her leg pressed against Crystal's; she moved it away whenever the chefs were watching. The women tasted both kinds of sashimi, while the chefs studied their reactions intently. As soon as the chefs turned away, Crystal's friend touched her leg again, and Crystal secreted two pieces of each kind of meat in a napkin, which she slipped into the Ziploc. They left with a hand-written receipt, which included the words "whale" and "horse," in English. The price for that plate alone was $85. Though the "horse" was gross, Crystal said. "Everything else was so good. I feel guilty saying it."
Hambleton took the meat, froze it, and the following morning FedEx'ed it to Dr. Scott Baker, the associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, and an expert in cetacean molecular genetics. Baker, who recently established a database of whale, dolphin, and porpoise DNA, and has sampled cetacean meat sold in markets all over Asia, identified the meat as sei, the fourth largest of the baleen whales, behind blues, fins, and rights. Fast, sleek, and elusivethey live far offshore and can go thirty-five miles an hoursei have been listed as endangered since 1973. Baker called the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association, which enforces the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
A few months later, federal investigators asked Crystal to return to The Hump to collect more samples. Her Chinese friend had refused to go back, afraid that the yakuza were involved and might come after her, so Crystal brought another friend, Heather, a petite, half-Asian woman in her early twenties. Hambleton tricked out the Guess purse with a better camera, from a top designer of surveillance equipment in New York, who helped with "The Cove" and, Hambleton told me, works with Israeli intelligence. "A lot of the cameras we get before the military does," he said.
Excerpted from Anything That Moves by Dana Goodyear. Copyright © 2013 by Dana Goodyear. Excerpted by permission of Riverhead Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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