Whale Meat Served in California
Following an undercover operation and federal investigation, trendy Santa Monica sushi restaurant, The Hump, was charged with serving meat from an endangered sei whale and consequently closed its doors on March 20. The Marine Mammal Protection Act prohibits the sale of whale meat in the U.S. The undercover investigation into the restaurant began in October 2009 by members of the team that made the Oscar-winning film “The Cove.” Two environmental advocates visited the restaurant with hidden cameras to collect footage and samples of the meat which were then sent to Dr. Scott Baker, a cetacean specialist at Oregon State University. Dr. Baker performed a DNA test of the meat and confirmed its source as a sei whale from Japan's controversial "research whaling program." Officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, California Department of Fish and Game, and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agency conducted their own investigation with the same results. Along with The Hump, its parent company, Typhoon Restaurant Inc., and one of its chefs, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, were charged with the illegal sale of a marine mammal product, a misdemeanor offense that carries a federal prison sentence of one year and a $100,000 fine for an individual and $200,000 for an organization. In a later development and for an unknown reason it was announced that the charges may be dismissed without prejudice, meaning they could be re-filed at a later date. This is not an isolated incident. Dr. Baker also traced whale meat purchased at a restaurant in Seoul, South Korea to the Japanese "research whaling program." Import of the whale meat into both the U.S. and South Korea is a violation of CITES.