Two Los Angeles area sushi chefs have been indicted in connection with selling illegal whale meat out of a shuttered Santa Monica sushi restaurant, the US Attorney’s Office said.
The men allegedly sold meat from Sei whales, which are endangered and protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, from Typhoon Restaurant, Inc., the parent company of the now-closed The Hump Restaurant, located at the Santa Monica Airport.
Local news from across Southern California
Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 48, of Culver City, and Susumu Ueda, 39, of Lawndale, allegedly ordered the whale meat from Ginichi Ohira, a Japanese national who previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of illegally selling a marine mammal product.
Once Ohira received the whale meat in the United States, he prepared an invoice that incorrectly described the meat as fatty tuna and delivered the whale meat to The Hump, according to the indictment that describes a conspiracy that last from 2007 into 2010.
The Hump sold whale sushi to informants posing as customers on three specific occasions in the fall of 2009 and in early 2010, officials said.
The meat sold as “whale” on two of the occasions was examined by scientists, who tested the DNA of the meat and determined it was Sei whale.
Receipts given to the informants who went to The Hump indicated that they had purchased “whale,” according to an affidavit.
Sei whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and they are listed as endangered in the Endangered Species Act of 1973.
The Hump, which served Santa Monica for nearly 12 years, closed in 2010 amid a media firestorm after the whale-meat charges came to light.