Santa Monica Observer - Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

Sushi Chefs Plead Guilty To Serving Whale Meat


Two chefs who worked at a now-closed Santa Monica sushi restaurant pleaded guilty Tuesday to serving meat from federally protected Sei whales.

Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda, who worked at the now closed The Hump at Santa Monica Airport, have pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges of conspiracy and offering to, and selling, a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose.

Typhoon Restaurant Inc., parent company of The Hump, and the two chefs were charged in 2010. The charges were dropped and then refiled last month.

Yamamoto, 49, of Culver City, and 40-year-old Ueda of Lawndale each face up to three years in federal prison, plus fines and community service.

Filmmakers from the documentary "The Cove " were at the restaurant and were offered a sample of the whale meat. They advised federal officials that the eatery was serving Sei whale. Small amounts of the meat were smuggled out by patrons and tested by federal authorities and found through DNA testing to be Sei whale meat.

Yamamoto and Ueda purchased the meat from Gardena-based seafood dealer Ginichi Ohira, who had procured it from a supplier in Japan.

Ohira, a Japanese national, previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of importing

The restaurant owner admitted -- and apologized for -- serving Sei, pledged to make a substantial contribution to whale preservation or endangered species groups. The restaurant subsequently closed in spring 2010.

It is illegal to sell any kind of whale meat in the United States. Sei whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act protects Sei whales and are listed as endangered an endangered species.


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