Whale Meat Dealer Pleads Guilty
Posted by Amy Oppenheim on May 29, 2011 - 3:04:25 PM
SANTA MONICA—A seafood dealer in Gardena who imported whale meat from Tokyo and sold it to a Santa Monica restaurant pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
Ginichi Y. Ohira, 50, was charged in a Los Angeles federal court for willingly selling a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose, in violation of the Federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Photo courtesy of thecovemovie.com
According to reports, Ohira sold whale meat to The Hump at the Santa Monica Airport, as well as other sushi restaurants in the Southland area. Consequently, The Hump was closed in 2010 after the owner was charged with federal violations of selling federally-protected mammals.
Ohira, who began trading whale meat from Japan over 10 years ago, allegedly sold the illegal product to the head sushi chef at The Hump.
Undercover agents who worked with the environmental groups responsible for the documentary, “The Cove,” discovered the meat after conducting a surveillance operation that involved hidden video cameras and microphones used to document the illegal activity.
The undercover agents took samples of the meat being used in the restaurant and sent it to a laboratory for genetic testing, which showed the meat was sei whale, an endangered whale that is found all over the world but is hunted specifically in the North Pacific through a controversial Japanese scientific organization.
The Hump’s owner admitted to serving whale, and in addition to permanently shutting down, promised to make large contributions to whale preservation and endangered species groups, and charges against the restaurant were dropped in 2010.
However, personal charges against Ohira were not dismissed, and the misdemeanor charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison, one year supervised release and a $100,000 fine.
Ohira pleaded guilty on May 24.
On the topic of the endangerment of whales, creators of “The Cove” state on their website that “despite a 20-year moratorium on whaling they have yet to come back in any significant numbers.”
Additionally, “The Cove” creators warn the public about scientific whaling companies such as the one in the North Pacific, stating, “Besides counterfeit whale meat of dolphins, DNA scientist Scott Baker also found samples of illegally caught Fin Whales and other endangered whales from a large sample test of over the counter sales of whale meat from all around Japan.”
The site also expresses concern that “meat from ‘Scientific Whaling’ might be used as a cover for an illegal whaling operation.”
For information on how to help prevent whaling and the selling of endangered species products, log on to takepart.com/thecove.