SMO — The parent company and owner of a now-closed Santa Monica restaurant have pleaded guilty to serving meat from an endangered whale.
Typhoon Restaurant Inc. and owner Brian Vidor each entered guilty pleas Monday to one count of unlawful sale of a marine mammal.
They were charged with serving meat from the endangered Sei (say) whale to undercover investigators at the restaurant The Hump at Santa Monica Municipal Airport.
As part of the plea, Vidor admitted that he was aware his sushi chefs, who have previously pleaded guilty, were serving whale.
Typhoon and Vidor will jointly pay a $27,500 fine and will be placed on probation if the terms of the plea agreements are accepted by the judge.
Federal officials were alerted to the sale of illegal whale meat at The Hump in 2010 after the team behind the Oscar-award winning documentary “The Cove” conducted an undercover investigation, capturing video of a waitress at the restaurant allegedly serving whale. They also went so far as to send meat samples to the Marine Mammal Institute for DNA testing, which later showed the meat did come from sei whales.
Chefs Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda purchased the meat from Gardena-based seafood dealer Ginichi Ohira, who had procured it from a supplier in Japan, according to court documents.
Ohira, a Japanese national, admitted to a misdemeanor charge of importing endangered whale meat and selling it to Southland sushi restaurants in 2013.
After Ohira imported several pounds of whale meat from Tokyo to the United States, he prepared an invoice that incorrectly described the meat as fatty tuna and delivered the meat to The Hump, according to the indictment that describes a conspiracy lasting from 2007 into 2010.
The Hump sold whale sushi to informants posing as customers on three occasions in the fall of 2009 and in early 2010, according to previously filed documents,
The Hump apologized and closed in spring 2010.
It is illegal to sell any kind of whale meat in the United States. Sei whales are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and listed as endangered in the Endangered Species Act of 1973.