Hong Kong grocery store apologises after cans of whale curry found on shelves

The canned whale cury found at a Tuen Mun 759 store. (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

How do you like your curry? Canned perhaps? With bits of endangered animal bobbing in it as well?

Yesterday evening, a shopper was browsing the shelves of a branch of the popular 759 Japanese grocery store in the Tuen Mun New Town Mall when he came across cans of whale curry, priced at HKD39.90 each.

Horrified, he notified Apple Daily, which immediately sent reporters to figure out if a Hong Kong grocery store was seriously selling cans of curried whale meat.

HKD39.90! What a steal!  (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Indeed, the newspaper found that the “Takagi” brand were advertised as being imported straight from Japan, and listed “Nagasu Whale Red Meat” on its nutrition labeling.

Soon after that, 759 staff were seen removing the products from the shelves.

The store later apologised, saying that an employee had made a mistake and ordered 240 cans, selling only seven before the “error” was discovered, according to Gary Stokes, the Asia Director for Sea Shepherd, a controversial conservation group that often attacks whaling ships.

Stokes told Coconuts Hong Kong that he thinks the grocery store’s explanation is a “load of crap”, implying that he thinks the store actually imported more than 240 cans. 

Sea Shepherd activists trying to stop a Japanese whaling ship in the Antarctic Ocean.  (Photo: Sea Shepherd)

Confusingly a 759 spokeswoman admitted the whale curry was deliberately sold in branches in areas with high densities of Japanese customers, reports the SCMP.

“[The sale of the cans] was not a mistake!” exclaimed Sea Shephered in a statement.

The organisation’s investigation concluded that the meat used in the curry comes from fin whales, an endangered species that is listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

In China (Hong Kong included), which is a signatory of CITES, it is illegal to import or possess Appendix I animals without a permit issued by the Hong Kong government. 

The maximum punishment is a fine of HKD5 million and two years’ imprisonment.

A fin whale seen from above. (Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration via Wikimedia Commons)

If the thought of contributing to the disappearance of an entire sentient species or being sentenced to prison is not a big enough deterrent for you, then maybe the possible health risk will be.

Sea Shepherd is concerned that the whale meat may contain excessive levels of mercury and pesticides.

Earlier this year, Japan received a shipment of fin whale meat from Norway that it determined to be unfit for human consumption. Stokes says a DNA test will help to determine whether the cans contains meat from the same batch.  

The organisation has urged the local authorities to conduct full lab tests on the product and to prosecute the importer to the full extent of the law.

The Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department did not immediately return our request for comment. 

Got a tip? Send it to us at hongkong@coconuts.co.

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