Chefs who served whale sushi now facing jail time

Three years ago, Santa Monica sushi restaurant The Hump closed its doors after a documentary crew, which was lead by the associate producer for the film “The Cove,” exposed the restaurant as openly selling whale sushi to customers.

A federal grand jury has indicted owners of The Hump’s parent company, Typhoon Restaurant Inc., along with two chefs, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto of Culver City and Susumu Ueda of Lawndale, on “nine counts of conspiracy to import and sell whale meat from 2007 to 2010,” reports Los Angeles Times.

In 2010 the two young activists racked up a $600 bill at the restaurant, ordering increasingly exotic fish, before asking for whale, which the chef served openly and even marked as such on the bill. The activists then smuggled the meat out of the restaurant where they had it genetically tested, confirming it was Sei whale.

Sei whale is an endangered species covered in the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Large-scale commercial whaling in the 19th and 20th centuries killed off about two thirds of the Sei Whale population, and the species is now internationally protected.

According to an indictment, Yamamoto and Ueda allegedly ordered the whale meat from Ginichi Ohira, a Japanese national who previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally selling a marine mammal product.

Once Ohira received the whale meat in the United States, he prepared an invoice that incorrectly described the meat as fatty tuna and delivered the whale meat to the Hump, according to the indictment.

Yamamoto faces up to 67 years in federal prison, and Ueda faces 10 years. Typhoon Restaurant Inc. will owe $1.2 million in fines.

(via Huffington Post, Los Angeles Times, NYT)