Sunday, February 03, 2013

Sushi Chef Faces 67 Years In Jail For Selling Endangered Whale Meat

A head chef faces up to 67 years in jail after he was allegedly caught in an undercover sting selling illegal whale meat at a trendy sushi restaurant in California.

Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 48, from Culver City, is accused of nine counts of conspiracy to import and sell endangered Sei whale meat from 2007 to 2010, a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. 

Another chef, Susumu Ueda, 39, from Lawndale, and the restaurant’s parent company, Typhoon Restaurant Inc, have also been charged. Ueda faces up to 10 years' jail, and Typhoon a fine of up to £800,000.

The now-closed Hump restaurant was allegedly filmed by the team behind Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, which features covert scenes of the barbaric annual dolphin hunt in Japan (see trailer below).


One of the activists had been tipped off by friends in the music industry that whale meat was being served at the £200 a head restaurant in Santa Monica. They went along there with hidden cameras during the Academy Awards ceremony in 2010, and say they were given thick, pink slices of whale on the omakase menu, where chefs choose a selection of dishes for customers to try.

In the footage, the waitress can be heard calling the meat “whale”. It was also referred to by its Japanese name, kujira. The pair put the £40 dish in a bag and sent it off for DNA analysis to the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University.

Scientists confirmed it was Sei whale, which are endangered but hunted in the North Pacific under a controversial Japanese programme that allows the killing of up to 1,000 whales a year under the guise of scientific research.

Police then carried out their own undercover operation and broke up the alleged smuggling operation. According to court papers, staff said the meat came from the boot of a Mercedes parked outside the restaurant.

Many top sushi restaurants serve unusual fish imported from Japan, and whale meat is often found in Tokyo markets. But campaigners said they had never heard of it being served in an American restaurant.

The Hump – apparently named after the aviation slang name for the Himalayas rather than the type of whale it (allegedly) sold - closed soon after the scandal.

On its website, bosses described the omakase menu as a “culinary adventure…created for you unlike any that you have previously experienced!” They added: “If you are truly adventurous (and have NO allergic or religious restrictions), we request that you leave yourself in our hands.”

Given there are only 54,000 Sei whales left in the world, it was a pity they didn’t mention ethical and ecological reasons as well.

No comments: