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California Sushi Restaurant Accused of Serving Whale

California Sushi Restaurant Accused of Serving Whale

If they're found guilty, the restaurateurs could be fined up to $1.2 million

A Los Angeles sushi chef could face up to 67 years in prison if convicted of selling whale sushi.

The Santa Monica Mirror reports that two chefs from The Hump restaurant in the Santa Monica airport (the restaurant closed in 2010), are charged with selling Sei whale, an endangered species prohibited from sale in the United States.

If convicted, The Hump's parent company Typhoon Restaurant, Inc. could be fined up to $1.2 million. The two chefs also included in the lawsuit could be given hefty prison sentences; Kiyoshiro Yamamoto could face up to 67 years in prison while Susumu Ueda could face up to 10 years.

According to the criminal complaint, the restaurant sold whale sushi to customers three times, "some straight from the trunk of a Mercedes," the Mirror reports. Agents filmed a waitress serving eight pieces of what she identified as whale.

In the past, Amazon has gotten in trouble for selling whale and dolphin meat in its foreign shops, and a London bar was recently raided for allegedly selling whale-infused whiskey.


Sushi Chefs Plead Guilty To Serving Whale Meat At Santa Monica Restaurant

LOS ANGELES (CBSLA.com) — Two chefs have pleaded guilty Monday to serving meat from federally-protected sei whales.

Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 49, of Culver City, and Susumu Ueda, 40, of Lawndale, who worked at now-closed The Hump at Santa Monica Airport, pleaded guilty to three misdemeanor charges each – conspiracy and offering to, and selling, a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purchase. They each face up to three years in federal prison, plus fines and community service.

The chefs and Typhoon Restaurant Inc., parent company of The Hump, were initially charged in 2010, but the charges were dropped and later refiled and revised last month.

Federal officials were tipped off to the unusual offering at The Hump in 2010 by the filmmakers of the documentary “The Cove.”

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

Ohira, who is a Japanese national, previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of importing endangered whale meat and selling it to Southland sushi restaurants. He is awaiting sentencing.

The indictment, which described a conspiracy between 2007 and 2010, says Ohira imported several pounds of whale meat from Tokyo to the United States with an invoice that described the meat as fatty tuna and delivered the meat to The Hump.

According to previously filed documents, The Hump sold whale sushi to informants posing as customers on three occasions in the fall of 2009 and in early 2010. The meat sold as “whale” on two of the occasions was examined by scientists, who determined it was sei whale via DNA testing. Receipts given to the informants who went to The Hump indicated that they had purchased “whale,” according to the affidavit.

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 of 1972 and listed as endangered in the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

(©2014 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)


Oscar Winners Try to Keep Whale Off Sushi Plates

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — It is sport among black belt sushi eaters here to see just how daring one’s palate can be. But even among the squid-chomping, roe-eating and uni-nibbling fans, whale is almost unheard of on the plate. It also happens to be illegal.

Yet with video cameras and tiny microphones, the team behind Sunday’s Oscar-winning documentary film “The Cove” orchestrated a Hollywood-meets-Greenpeace-style covert operation to ferret out what the authorities say is illegal whale meat at one of this town’s most highly regarded sushi destinations.

Their work, undertaken in large part here last week as the filmmakers gathered for the Academy Awards ceremony, was coordinated with law enforcement officials, who said Monday that they were likely to bring charges against the restaurant, the Hump, for violating federal laws against selling marine mammals.

“We’re moving forward rapidly,” said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the United States attorney for the Central District of California. Mr. Mrozek declined to say what charges could be brought against the restaurant, but said they could come as early as this week.

In the clash of two Southern California cultures — sushi aficionados and hard-core animal lovers — the animal lovers have thrown a hard punch.

“This isn’t just about saving whales,” said Louie Psihoyos, the director of “The Cove,” a documentary that chronicles eco-activists’ battles with Japanese officials over dolphin hunting. “But about saving the planet.”

The sushi sting actually began in October, when the documentary’s associate producer and “director of clandestine operations,” Charles Hambleton, heard from friends in the music industry that the Hump, a highly rated sushi restaurant next to the runway at the Santa Monica airport, was serving whale.

Mr. Hambleton, who has worked as a water safety consultant on Hollywood movies like “Pirates of the Caribbean,” created a tiny camera for two animal-activist associates to wear during a monster session of omakase — a sushi meal in which the chef picks all the dishes.

Video of their meal shows the two activists, both vegan, being served what the waitress can be heard calling “whale” — thick pink slices — that they take squeamish bites of before tossing into a Ziploc bag in a purse.

The samples were sent to Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. Professor Baker said DNA testing there revealed that the samples sent to him were from a Sei whale, which are found worldwide and are endangered but are sometimes hunted in the North Pacific under a controversial Japanese scientific program. “I’ve been doing this for years,” Professor Baker said. “I was pretty shocked.”

Serving unusual fish imported from Japan is the hallmark of many high-end sushi restaurants here, and whale meat is often found in Japanese markets, Professor Baker said. But he said he had never heard of it being served in an American restaurant.

Workers at the Hump, which according to its Web site is named after an aviation slang term for the Himalayas, directed questions to a lawyer.

“We’re going to look into the allegations and try to determine what is true,” said the lawyer, Gary Lincenberg, in a telephone interview. “Until we have done that, I don’t have any other comment.”

Professor Baker contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a marine conservation unit of the Department of Commerce, which began its own investigation, eventually looping in the United States attorney in Los Angeles.

Mr. Psihoyos’s team — a far-flung band of activists who use film making to highlight environmental causes — knew they would be together in Los Angeles for the Oscars, and so sting operations two and three were hatched. On Feb. 28, team members split up between the sushi bar and a restaurant table and ordered sushi and communicated via text message with Mr. Psihoyos, who waited in a car in the parking lot. Mr. Psihoyos served as an electronic envoy between the investigators at the sushi bar, who were witnessing the chopping of fish and whale, and those sitting at a table:

“They’re eating blowfish!” read one of the text messages. “Toro and sea urchin, nothing exciting,” another said. “Whale coming now!”

Next waiters identified a meaty course of whale, referring to it at times by its Japanese name, kujira, at a cost of $60, according to a federal affidavit. (The total bill exceeded $600 for two, with very little sake.)

Last week, several federal agents, including one from the Border Patrol and one who speaks Japanese, joined their team. Once again, the chef and wait staff more than once identified the meat as whale, the affidavit said, and it may have been obtained from a Mercedes parked behind the restaurant.

Armed with a search warrant, federal officials on Friday went searching for evidence from the restaurant, including marine mammal parts as well as various records and documents. The possession or sale of marine mammals is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and can lead to a year in prison and a fine of $20,000.

Mr. Psihoyos, a former photojournalist who heads a nonprofit through which he makes his films, said that environmental action is more motivating to him than awards.

“Once you become sensitized to these animals you want to save them,” he said over breakfast Monday, still bleary from his big Oscar night.


Grand jury indicts the Hump and sushi chefs in whale meat case

The shuttered Hump restaurant in Santa Monica and two of its sushi chefs have been indicted by a federal grand jury on charges including selling sei whale meat, an announcement from the U.S. attorney’s office in Los Angeles says.

Typhoon Restaurant Inc., the parent company of the Hump, and Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda were named in the nine-count indictment. Other charges include conspiracy to import and sell meat from the endangered sei whale and lying to federal investigators.

The Hump closed in 2010 after an associate producer of the documentary “The Cove,” which investigated the killing of dolphins in Japan, orchestrated a video sting. The Times reported that two participating activists asked if they could order whale meat as part of an omakase meal and a waitress served eight pieces, according to a federal affidavit. DNA tests confirmed the meat came from a sei whale, which is protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. It’s illegal to sell any kind of whale meat in the U.S.

If convicted, Yamamoto faces up to 67 years in prison, and Ueda faces a maximum 10-year term. Typhoon would face fines totaling $1.2 million.

Yamamoto, 48, and Ueda, 39, allegedly ordered the whale meat from Ginichi Ohira, who has already pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Ohira received the whale meat in the U.S., prepared an invoice that described the meat as fatty tuna and delivered it to the Hump.

The attorney for Yamamoto did not immediately return a call for comment.

James W. Spertus, the lawyer for Ueda, said, “It’s very unfortunate that the U.S. attorney’s office has decided to charge my client after years of doing nothing. The case was charged initially as a misdemeanor.

“The goverment’s theory of this case is completely upside down. The federal government has given a pass to the most culpable person in this chain, the supplier, and instead has focused on the sushi chef serving what customers ordered.”

Assistant U.S. Atty. Dennis Mitchell in the environmental crimes section said he had no comment.

The company and Yamamoto initially were charged three years ago, but prosecutors sought to have the charges dropped with the option to refile at a later date.


Sei Whale Sushi Sting: The Hump Restaurant Busted by "The Cove" Producers for Allegedly Serving Whale

The Hump (Credit: AP/Reed Saxon)

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (CBS/AP) A Santa Monica restaurant is accused of serving the illegal meat of endangered Sei whales.

Federal prosecutors have filed charges against the sushi chef and the Santa Monica restaurant, The Hump.

Typhoon Restaurant Inc., which owns The Hump restaurant, and 45-year-old Kiyoshiro Yamamoto of Culver City, were charged Wednesday with illegally selling an endangered species product, a misdemeanor.

Two undercover diners requested whale as part of a $600 "chef's choice" meal. The women were working with producers of the Oscar-winning documentary, "The Cove," to videotape the meal.

Court records say they pocketed a sample, and testing confirmed it was Sei whale meat.

An attorney for Typhoon, Gary Lincenberg, says the restaurant accepts responsibility and will agree to pay a fine. If convicted, the company could be fined $200,000.

Trending News

Yamamoto faces a year in prison and a $100,000 fine, if convicted. His attorney, Mark Byrne, declined to comment.


Sushi Chefs Face Serious Prison Time After Selling Whale Meat

Two sushi chefs who worked at a now shuttered sushi joint in the Santa Monica Airport are facing federal prison terms. The Japanese chefs are accused of illegally serving whale meat that they intentionally concealed.

According to the Los Angeles Times, in 2010 The Hump closed after a sting operation revealed enough evidence to hit the chef and parent company with felony charges. In true Hollywood fashion, it was all caught on film for what would become an Oscar-winning documentary, The Cove.

After the Feds did further research, they had reason to believe that the restaurant concealed importation and sale of whale meat since 2007, a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Now, the Los Angeles Times reports, chefs Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda have been indicted along with the parent company, Typhoon Restaurant Inc., by a federal grand jury. If convicted, Yamamoto will face a prison sentence of up to 67 years while Ueda is looking at up to 10 years. Typhoon Restaurant Inc. could be forced to dole out $1.2 million in fines.

How and why did the chefs serve whale meat? Sei whale may be banned from being sold or imported in the U.S., but despite being endangered (only 80,000 whales are known to be alive worldwide), it is allowed to be served at sushi restaurants in Japan. The chefs ordered the whale meat from a previously convicted Japanese national, Ginichi Ohira, who fudged the invoice, labeling it as fatty tuna instead of the endangered species.

Yamamoto was finally caught in 2009 and 2010 when he sold the forbidden mammal to informants working for the feds. The video sting operation was orchestrated by The Cove's associate producer.

Do you think the sushi chefs should do prison time for their crime?

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What Does Whale Taste Like?

A Santa Monica, Calif., sushi restaurant has been charged with serving endangered whale meat to its customers. Two activists initiated the investigation by ordering kujira, Japanese for whale meat, then stuffing some into their napkins for transport to an Oregon laboratory. (The restaurant obligingly listed the order as “whale” on their receipt.) What does whale taste like?

It’s similar to reindeer or moose. Whale tastes much more like its hairy cousins on land than its gilled neighbors in the sea. In places where gamey meats are common—like Norway, Iceland, and among the indigenous people of Alaska—whale is served straight up with little or no seasoning. For those who find its unrefined flavor off-putting, whale is cured, marinated, or slathered with a flavorful sauce. Whale bacon, marketed in shrink-wrapped packages of thin marbled slices closely resembling pork bacon, is offered at some Japanese markets. Whale meat curries are sold from a few Tokyo lunch trucks. Japanese schools are currently trying to figure out a way to get children to eat the meat for lunch, possibly turning to whale burgers or fish stick-style preparations. But some Japanese traditionalists still enjoy gamey, unadorned strips of whale meat sashimi. (Slate’s Seth Stevenson offers an opposing viewpoint: He thinks whale is a delicious beef-fish hybrid.)

The finer points of cetacean butchery have been lost over time. In modern-day Japan, where whale has become a fringe product, the muscle is generally divided into two cuts: belly meat and tail meat. But an 1832 whale cookbook listed 70 different cuts for human consumption, and, even in the 1980s, one of the few remaining wholesalers offered 60 whale cuts. Coastal Eskimos had a strict spoils system after a successful whale hunt, dividing the catch into 10 sections. The best part—that’s the fatty tail—went to the captain of the conquering ship, the lesser sections around the eyes and blowhole to his crew and other boats that assisted with the kill, and the leftovers to also-ran captains and their crews. (In Japan, fluke meat sells for well over $100 per pound, more than three times the asking price for belly meat.)

Japanese whale meat restaurants—which are rare and don’t flaunt their presence to Westerners—also serve cubed and grilled blubber, cartilage salads, and whale skin stew. In times gone by, Japanese noblemen consumed whale gums, too, and served the trachea and duodenum to the poor. The practice of spreading the whale out among many people is based in the Buddhist principle that it’s better to sacrifice a single soul to feed many than to kill many animals to feed one person. Thus many schools of Buddhism favor eating whales (and recommend against eating shrimp).

The amount of whale that’s eaten in Japan has fluctuated over the years. A staple in some communities in previous centuries, the meat fell out of favor in the early 20 th century. Following World War II, when the country’s infrastructure was badly damaged, whale meat made a comeback, providing nearly half of the country’s protein by some accounts. In recent years, it has fallen off again. While the United States is now a strong opponent of whale consumption, it, too, once turned to whale during times of shortage. Federal authorities held a luncheon (PDF) at the American Museum of Natural History in 1918, trying to push whale as a home-front substitute for the beef that our troops craved. (The menu was prepared by the head chef from Delmonico’s.) One attendee called the meat “as delicious a morsel as the most aesthetic or sophisticated palate could possibly yearn for.” Others said it was “not very different from plain, ordinary pot roast, only a little richer.”

Nutritionally, whale meat is a bit of a mixed bag. Both the tail and belly meat are lower in fat and calories and higher in protein than most cuts of pork and beef (although chicken breast and fish beat the mammals in all three categories). Whale is comparable to fish in omega-3 content. Studies, however, have shown whale meat also carries dangerously high levels of mercury and PCB.


Popular California sushi restaurant charged with selling endangered whale meat

New Source: JusticeNewsFlash.com
Legal news for California environmental attorneys. Japanese restaurant, the Hump, charged for selling Sei whale meat at their Santa Monica restaurant.

Environmental attorneys alert- A restaurant was charged with violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act by selling Sei whale meat.

Santa Monica, CA—A popular Japanese restaurant known for serving exotic forms of sushi, is facing a criminal complaint, which alleges the restaurants chef of serving whale meat, a direct violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), the California Department of Fish and Game (DFG), and the federal Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency, all investigated the restaurant, the Hump, as reported by the New York Times.

The investigation was initiated by the people behind the Oscar-wining documentary film, “The Cove,” which depicts the dark practices surrounding dolphin hunting. After a thorough investigation by the multiple governmental agencies, they concluded that the Hump was indeed serving the meat of an endangered whale, the Sei whale. According to Wikipedia http://www.wikipedia.org, the Sei whale is a baleen whale and has been under international protection since 1970.

Undercover agents and environmental activates visited the restaurant where they pocketed the suspected meat for testing. The complaint names Typhoon Restaurant Inc., who owns the Hump, which is located next to the Santa Monica Airport runway. The filing also names the chef, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, with the illegal sale of a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose. The charge is a misdemeanor offense, with a maximum statutory penalty of one year in a federal prison, in addition to a maximum fine of $100,000 for an individual and $200,000 for an organization. Lawyers representing the Hump stated that the restaurant is accepting responsibility for illegal sale of whale meat, and has agreed to pay a fine and resolve the issue in court.


Santa Monica Sushi Chefs to Admit Selling Whale Meat

Two chefs who worked at a now-closed Santa Monica sushi restaurant will plead guilty to serving meat from federally protected sei whales, according to court papers obtained today.

Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda, who worked at the The Hump at Santa Monica Airport, are charged in a three-count indictment with conspiring to import and sell meat from the endangered species.

The chefs and Typhoon Restaurant Inc., the parent company of The Hump, were initially charged in 2010, but the charges were dropped, later refiled and revised last month.

Yamamoto, 49, of Culver City, and 40-year-old Ueda of Lawndale each face a possible maximum sentence of three years in prison plus fines, according to court papers. They made their initial Los Angeles federal court appearance today, but did not enter guilty pleas.

The first word of the unusual offering at The Hump came in 2010 from the Oscar-winning team behind the documentary "The Cove." The filmmakers, who went to the restaurant and were able to get a sample, tipped off federal officials that the restaurant was serving sei whale.

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

Ohira, a Japanese national, previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of importing endangered whale meat and selling it to Southland sushi restaurants. He faces sentencing Monday.

After Ohira imported several pounds of whale meat from Tokyo to the United States, he prepared an invoice that incorrectly described the meat as fatty tuna and delivered the meat to The Hump, according to the indictment that describes a conspiracy lasting from 2007 into 2010.

According to previously filed documents, The Hump sold whale sushi to informants posing as customers on three occasions in the fall of 2009 and in early 2010.

The meat sold as "whale" on two of the occasions was examined by scientists, who determined it was sei whale via DNA testing. Receipts given to the informants who went to The Hump indicated that they had purchased "whale," according to an affidavit.

The Hump apologized and closed in spring 2010. At the time, the restaurant owner admitted serving sei, pledged to make a substantial contribution to whale preservation or endangered species groups.

It is illegal to sell any kind of whale meat in the United States. Sei whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and listed as endangered in the Endangered Species Act of 1973.

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SoCal Sushi Restaurant, 2 Chefs Indicted For Allegedly Serving Illegal Whale

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A Southern California sushi restaurant and two chefs have been indicted on conspiracy and other charges for allegedly serving illegal and endangered whale meat.

Typhoon Restaurant Inc., parent of The Hump restaurant in Santa Monica, and sushi chefs Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda were named Thursday in a nine-count indictment. If convicted, Yamamoto faces up to 67 years in prison, while Ueda faces a maximum 10-year term.

The company and Yamamoto were initially charged three years ago, but prosecutors sought to have the charges dropped with the option to refile them at a later date.

Marine mammal activists posed as customers and were served whale during three separate visits to the restaurant. Tests confirmed the meat came from a Sei whale, an endangered species protected by international treaties.

(© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)


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