AIRPORT COURTHOUSE — The sushi chef charged with selling endangered sei whale at The Hump is free today on a $5,000 bond as he and the owners of the restaurant await their chance to enter pleas in federal court.

A representative with the Department of Justice said the owners of The Hump and chef Kiyoshiro Tamamoto, a 45-year-old resident of Culver City, made an appearance before a federal judge Tuesday, at which time they were formerly made aware of the charges filed against them. The hearing gave the judge the opportunity to determine if the defendants should get a bond or be detained pending trial.

The defendants have been charged with the illegal sale of a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose. Sei whales are listed as an endangered species, and the sale of all whale meat is prohibited in the United States by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. This charge is a misdemeanor offense that carries a maximum statutory penalty of one year in federal prison and a maximum fine of $100,000 for an individual and $200,000 for an organization, federal prosecutors said.

According to the criminal complaint and a search warrant that was executed at the restaurant in March, The Hump sold whale sushi to customers on three occasions dating back to October. 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. Additionally, receipts given to customers at The Hump indicated that they had purchased “whale.”

Owners of the Hump have since admitted their guilt, apologized to customers and have closed the restaurant, which is located at the Santa Monica Airport in a building owned by City Hall. City Hall received a base rent plus a percentage of gross receipts. The owners of The Hump also operate a sister restaurant called Typhoon, which is also located at the airport.

The defendants are expected to enter their pleas May 10.

kevinh@smdp.com

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