Thar She Blows! Restaurateur Admits He Served Whale Meat

Whale Sushi Sting
Reed Saxon/APThe Hump Restaurant, located on the floor above the Typhoon Restaurant, in Santa Monica, Calif., as seen in March 2010.
A restaurant owner and his company pleaded guilty in federal court to serving sushi made of the endangered Sei whale, according to the Los Angeles Times. Brian Vidor and Typhoon Restaurant Inc. had each been charged with the unlawful sale of a marine mammal.

Vidor and his restaurant have accepted a plea deal that would mean splitting a $27,500 fine and respective 12-month and 18-month probation terms, should the judge agree with the arrangement.

Two sushi chefs, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda, and the Japanese national supplier of the whale meat, Ginichi Ohira, have also pleaded guilty.

The news of whale meat on the menu first came out in 2010, according to CBS news, as part of a sting operation organized by the producers of the Oscar-nominated documentary, "The Cove." They sent two women into the upstairs portion of Typhoon, which was called The Hump at the time. The restaurant specialized in exotic seafood.

The women each took part in a $600 chef's choice menu and they requested whale. They kept samples that were later tested, showing them to have come from a Sei whale. The Sei is a protected species in the U.S., but the hunting and sale of whale is legal in Japan, according to the Huffington Post. Invoices listed the meat as "fatty tuna" and dishes using whale were not printed on the restaurant's menu.

Undercover agents from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Customs and Border Protection and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration then visited the restaurant, as the Times noted. While they sat at the sushi bar, Yamamoto left the restaurant, went to his car, and returned with a package wrapped in plastic. He said "in a hushed voice" that it was whale.

The Hump purchased whale meat from Ohira from 2007 to 2010, until the activity was uncovered. That restaurant closed in 2010 after news broke, although Vidor opened another restaurant in the space.

Ueda and Yamamoto cooperated with prosecutors, as the Times reported, and said that Vidor and restaurant manager Chris Schaefer were both part of a conspiracy to sell the whale meat. In February 2014, prosecutors recommended 200 hours of community service and a $5,000 fine for each of the chefs. Both are scheduled for formal sentencing on Feb. 23.

As part of his plea deal, Vidor admitted that he knew the chefs served whale. After being caught, he closed The Hump and posted a statement on the restaurant's site, calling the closure a "self-imposed punishment" and saying, in part, "The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species."
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