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Federal prosecutors charge Santa Monica restaurant with illegal sale of whale meat

March 10, 2010 |  5:02 pm
Federal prosecutors Wednesday filed criminal charges against a Santa Monica sushi restaurant and one of its chefs, alleging that they sold endangered whale meat.

Named in the complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, were Typhoon Restaurant Inc., owner of the Hump restaurant at Santa Monica Airport, and chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 45, of Culver City. Both were charged with the illegal sale of a marine mammal product, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $100,000 for an individual and $200,000 for an organization.

“Someone should not be able to walk into a restaurant and order a plate of an endangered species,” said U.S. Atty. André Birotte Jr. in a prepared statement.

The Hump restaurant, a hip sushi hangout, came under fire after allegations surfaced in Tuesday’s  New York Times that it had served endangered Sei whale meat, possibly straight from the trunk of a white Mercedes.

In a statement, Gary Lincenberg, an attorney for the Hump, said the restaurant “accepts responsibility for the wrongdoing charged by the U.S. attorney and will agree to pay a fine and resolve this matter in court.”

The sale of whale meat came to light after federal agents and animal activists cooperated in a sting orchestrated by the associate producer of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove.”

Mark Gold, president of Heal the Bay, an environmental organization, said he was shocked by the revelations. “This is something I never thought would happen in Santa Monica, home of Heal the Bay, the NRDC [Natural Resources Defense Council] and my house,” he said.

-- Martha Groves