LOS ANGELES — Federal prosecutors filed charges Wednesday against a sushi chef and a Santa Monica restaurant on allegations that they served illegal and endangered whale meat.
Typhoon Restaurant Inc., which owns The Hump restaurant, and sushi chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 45, were charged with illegally selling an endangered species product, a misdemeanor.
According to a search warrant, marine mammal activists were served whale during three separate visits to the restaurant. Federal labs confirmed the meat came from a Sei whale, an endangered species protected by international treaties, documents said.
Agents also seized some suspected whale meat during a search of the restaurant Friday but are awaiting test results to confirm it was Sei whale, U.S. attorney spokesman Thom Mrozak said.
In October, two activists posing as customers went to The Hump and ordered “omakase,” which means they let the chef choose the choicest fresh fish. They also requested whale and pocketed a sample.
The young women worked with Louie Psihoyos, director of the Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove,” to record the meal with a hidden camera and microphone.
“These are endangered animals being cut up for dinner,” Psihoyos said. “It’s an abuse of science.”
Psihoyos took their findings to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which started an investigation.
Activists claim the whale meat came from Japan’s scientific whaling program and was illegally exported, but the U.S. attorney’s office is still investigating the source of the meat.