SANTA MONICA — Two sushi chefs pled guilty to misdemeanor crimes on February 10 stemming from the illegal sale of whale meat.
Kiyoshiro Yamamoto and Susumu Ueda decided to plead guilty to three misdemeanor offenses of conspiracy and the offering and sale of Sei whale meat during their tenure at the now defunct restaurant The Hump, which closed its doors in 2010. They could face up to a $20,000 fine and up to three years each in prison.
The chefs were indicted in the case, alongside the restaurant’s owner, Typhoon Restaurants, Inc., for violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), specifically referred to as Title 16 of the U.S. Code, sections 1372 (a)(4)(b), which protects endangered aquatic species like the Sei whale.
Court documents alleged that the chefs, under approval of the restaurant’s owner, would purchase the whale meat from a fish importer named Ginichi Ohira, who pleaded guilty to importing whale meat in June 2011. Ohiria, after shipping in the whale meat from
Japan, would then label the meat as something else like tuna to hide it from U.S. Customs. Yamamoto and Ueda would then sell the meat to customers using an off-menu. Two “confidential informants”Â posed as customers on February 28 and March 4, 2010, when they were sold the illegal meat by the chefs, according to court documents.
The chefs and the restaurant were exposed when the filmmakers of 2010’s “The Cove”Â discreetly caught the chefs selling the meat, according to a report from The Guardian. The documentary followed a group of activists that secretly filmed the animal abuse done to dolphins near the Japanese city of
Taijii. They then took some samples to be DNA tested, where the results showed that the meat was indeed from Sei whales. Both violated the Marine Mammal Protection Act which prohibits the killing, importing and sale of whale meat in the United States. Ueda admitted to ordering whale meat from a supplier in Japan that cost more than $15,000.00.
According to Thom Mrozek, Public Affairs Officer for the U.S Attorney’s office in Los Angeles said the pair are to be sentenced on May 12.
Canyon News reached out to Ueda’s attorney, James W. Sepertus, who noted his client’s regret for having participated in the act. “Mr. Ueda has accepted his responsibility for the misdemeanor offenses for which he was charged,”Â Mr. Spertus said.