California Sushi Restaurant Faces Criminal Charges for Serving Whale

A Santa Monica restaurant allegedly decided to serve meat from an endangered whale to their patrons

Criminal charges were filed this week against The Hump restaurant and one of its chefs for allegedly selling meat to customers that came from an endangered whale. The restaurant immediately released a statement through their attorney Gary Lincenberg admitting to wrongdoing and that they are willing to cooperate with court system, according to the L.A. Times.

Lincenberg said the Hump took “responsibility for the wrongdoing charged by the U.S. attorney.” The misdemeanor charge of illegal sale of a marine mammal product could be punished by up to a year in prison, as well as a $100,000 fine against an individual and a $200,000 fine against an organization, The L.A. Times reported

The restaurant was exposed through an unlikely team effort between a documentary producer, two vegans and federal agents.

Charles Hambleton, associated producer of the Oscar-winning documentary about water body abuses in Japan called “The Cove” (watch the trailer below), was tipped off about The Hump’s nefarious menu option. Crews that worked on the film helped to outfit two vegan women with a hidden camera before going into The Hump for a meal.

Once inside, the women ordered a $600 Chef’s Special called the omakase, and asked the server if they could sample whale meat. Eight pieces of what were described as whale by the server were then brought out to the two women, the Times reported.

The two women then took samples of the whale meat that were later verified through testing by Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. Baker’s tests found that the whale meat came from a Sei whale, an internationally protected species of whale identified as endangered.

Sei whales, the third largest in the world behind humpbacks and blue whales, are protected in the U.S. under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The law makes the sale of any whale meat illegal throughout the U.S.

“Someone should not be able to walk into a restaurant and order a plate of an endangered species,” U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. wrote in a news release.

The Typhoon Restaurant Inc., owners of The Hump, and Chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto were named in the official criminal complaint filed in the Los Angeles area U.S. District Court.

Typhoon is currently renegotiating their lease with the city of Santa Monica, an aspect of the case councilmen said they would be taking into consideration while they debate on how to punish the company.

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