Federal prosecutors filed criminal charges against a Santa Monica sushi restaurant for allegedly serving endangered whale meat. The City’s Attorney’s Office is conducting a separate investigation of the Hump, located at the city-owned airport.
Prosecutors claim The Hump sold sei whale meat, which is listed as an endangered species. It is illegal to sell whale meat in the United States under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay expressed outrage when he brought the issue to the March 9 City Council meeting. He asked for the City to revoke the business license or at least their tenancy.
The City owns the property where the 10-year-old Hump and sister restaurant Typhoon are located Council member Richard Bloom, chairman of the Santa Monica Bay Restoration, requested a thorough and swift examination to learn about the allegations. Bloom said he wants to know where the whale meat came from.
City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said she will examine the Hump’s lease terminology, which normally requires tenants to follow the laws. If found guilty, she said the City could revoke the Hump’s lease and business license.
Few councilmembers were able to speak at the meeting, as the issue was not part of the agenda. Moutrie said her office’s investigation will be finished in order to discuss the topic at the March 23 council meeting.
Federal charges were filed Wednesday against the Hump’s parent company, Typhoon Restaurant Inc. and chef Yamamoto, of Culver City. Both were charged with the “illegal sale of a marine mammal product,” which carries a maximum fine of $100,000 for an individual or $200,000 for a company.
The Hump sold whale sushi to customers on three occasions since October, according to the criminal complaint filed against the restaurant.
The Hump attorney Gary Lincenberg said that they accepted responsibility for the wrongdoing charged by the U.S. attorney and would resolve the matter in court.
News of the allegations spread nationwide after the New York Times reported that the sushi bar served endangered sei whale, some straight from the trunk of a Mercedes. Federal agents and activists cooperated in a sting that filmed a waitress serving eight pieces what she called “whale,” according to the affidavit provided by the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles.
The team behind the critically acclaimed documentary The Cove, organized the operation and obtained samples of the dish. A lab then confirmed the samples to be sei whale, according to reports. The receipts also listed “whale” as part of the purchase.
The Cove documented the annual killing of thousands of dolphins off the Japanese coats using undercover cameras.
Mirror Staff Reporterkatherine@smmirror.com