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3.11.2010 9:44 AM

California Restaurant Caught Serving Endangered Whale

A sushi restaurant faces up to $200,000 in fines for serving an endangered species.

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humpback whale
Photo: Kewalo Basin Marine Mammal Laboratory & The Dolphin Institute

By Julie Gerstein

A California restaurant and its head chef were charged for serving whale meat yesterday, and its owners face up to a year in prison and $200,000 in fines.

The Santa Monica sushi restaurant Hump and its head chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto was charged with serving endangered sei whale meat. According to the Los Angeles Times, the restaurant says it accepts responsibility and will pay the fine.

The case was spurred by members of the team behind the Oscar-winning film The Cove. Two women from the film's team went to the restaurant -- located at the Santa Monica airport -- and ordered the whale dish (priced at $85.) They slipped samples of the meat into napkins and took them to an Oregon State University lab for analysis to confirm that the meat was in fact whale.

Whalers began hunting sei whales after blue whale populations began to decline. Whaling is allowed under international law for scientific reasons, but the United States has outlawed the sale of endangered species.

Said U.S. Attorney André Birotte Jr. of the case, "Someone should not be able to walk into a restaurant and order a plate of an endangered species."


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