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Major U.S. Sushi Supplier Linked to Japan's Whale Hunts; 'U.S. Shoppers Will Be Shocked'

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WASHINGTON, D.C. -- True World Foods, one of the largest suppliers of sushi meat in the United States, has entered into a partnership with leading Japanese whale meat trader, Kyokuyo, to distribute Kyokuyo's new frozen sushi product in the United States. In its new report, "Raw Deal," the Environmental Investigation Agency details Kyokuyo's decades-long involvement in hunting whales and its recent links to True World Foods.

Kyokuyo is a multinational seafood conglomerate that got its start in the 1930s as a whaling company operating in the Antarctic. Although it sold its stock in the government of Japan's whaling fleet last year, Kyokuyo has not cut its connections to the whaling industry. It continues to sell millions of cans of Polar Seas brand canned whale meat and other whale products across Japan and on the Internet.

Humane Society International and IFAW (The International Fund for Animal Welfare) have joined EIA in calling on True World Foods to persuade Kyokuyo to stop selling whale products.

Kyokuyo recently partnered with True World Foods, the self-described "premier" seafood and sushi distributor in the U.S. to market frozen sushi under the brand name "Polar Seas Frozen Sushi." The groups are urging U.S. grocery stores to think twice before placing Polar Seas products on their shelves. The product is slated to hit grocery stores here as early as this summer.

"Through its sales of millions and millions of cans of whale meat in Japan each year, Kyokuyo is a driving force behind Japan's expanding commercial whaling industry," said EIA president Allan Thornton. "We appeal to True World Foods to use their influence to persuade Kyokuyo to immediately end their massive sale of whale meat and to uphold international laws that protect great whales from commercial hunting."

"No respectable business should want to be associated with the cruel and inhumane killing of one of the world's most magnificent animals," said Kitty Block, director of treaty law, oceans, and wildlife protection for HSI. "With such a large presence in the United States where citizens are outraged by the wanton slaughter, it is incumbent upon True World Foods to convince Kyokuyo to get out of the whaling business now."

Since the 1930s, Japanese hunters have killed more than half a million whales. Kyokuyo alone has profited from the death of over 130,000 whales over the last 70 years. The International Whaling Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986, but a loophole that allows whaling for "scientific purposes" continues to be exploited by Japan. More than 508 whales have already been killed in Japan's hunt this year.

"Despite a global ban and global outrage, the government of Japan now hunts more than 1,200 whales each year," said IFAW's Patrick Ramage. "U.S. shoppers will be shocked to know that by buying 'Polar Seas' sushi, they are supporting Japan's deadly whale hunt."

Japan has announced that, in addition to the 1,200 minke and fin whales it plans to hunt this year, it will also kill up to 50 humpback whales - a creature beloved to whale watchers around the world for its majestic acrobatics.

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