Feds Charge Sushi Restaurant And Chef For Illegally Selling Whale

Mar. 11 2010, Published 8:06 a.m. ET

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Federal prosecutors in Los Angeles filed criminal charges Wednesday against a Santa Monica sushi restaurant, Hump, and one of it's chefs for illegally selling whale meat. Typhoon Restaurant Inc. owner of the Hump restaurant and their chef, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, were named in the criminal complaint for selling an endangered species,  Sei whale meat.

Read The Court Documents

They were formally charged with illegally selling a marine mammal product which is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of one year in jail and fines ranging from $100k-200k. The criminal complaint says The Hump and the sushi chef were involved in illegal sale of a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose. Sei whales are endangered species and the sale of all whale meat is prohibited in the United States by the Marina Mammal Protection Act.

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Last fall animal activists working with Louie Psihoyos, the Academy Award winning director of  best documentary of The Cove, went to The Hump, requested whale meat and pocketed a sample. Psihoyos turned their evidence over to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement which began the investigation.

The criminal complaint states that a search warrant was executed at the restaurant last Friday and that The Hump sold whole whale sushi on three occasions and that meat sold as whale on two of the occasions was tested by scientists who tested the DNA of the meat and determined that it was Sei whale. Receipts given to the customers at The Hump stated they had purchased whale.

"Someone should not be able to walk into a restaurant and order a plate of endangered species," United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. told, "Federal law has a variety of provisions, including criminal statutes, intend to protect this planet’s threatened natural resources. People should be aware we will use these criminal statutes where appropriate to protect endangered species including to ensure that they do not end up part of a meal."

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"Making illicit products like whale meat available on the market only encourages the illegal hunting of marine mammals such as the Sei whale - a species that is already threatened by extinction," Martina Sagapolu of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Office of Law Enforcement told "While there is a market for illegal products and delicacies, we are dedicated to finding and prosecuting those who would exploit protected resources that are under threat."


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