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US Chef Charged With Serving Whale Meat

March 13, 2010

The Justice Department said on Thursday that a California sushi chef and the restaurant that he worked for have both been charged with illegally serving meat from an endangered Sei whale.

According to Reuters, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and popular restaurant “The Hump” in Santa Monica were charged with violating the Marine Mammals Protection Act, which makes it illegal to sell any kind of whale meat.

Informants ordered whale meat at the restaurant in October 2009, later leading to a sting operation by U.S. wildlife and custom officials who found whale meat being served at the restaurant last week.

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

An affidavit filed with the criminal complaint said two confidential informants ordered whale meat last week during a sting operation while wildlife and custom officers sat at the sushi bar observing.

According to the affidavit, the sushi chef went to a car in the parking lot and brought a package of meat back into the restaurant where he opened it at the sushi bar and sliced the meat to serve.

The document said that after initially ignoring questions from a customer at the sushi bar about the meat, “a customer to the right of the (official) then asked the sushi chef about the meat product, and the sushi chef quietly said that it was ‘whale’.”

The plate of whale meat was then delivered to the informants’ table.

The charge will bring a penalty of up to a year in prison and fines of up to $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for organizations.

The case is USA v. Typhoon Restaurant dba The Hump Restaurant and Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, Central District of California.

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