Sushi Chef Gets Probation for Selling Whale Meat

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - A chef who worked at a now-defunct Santa Monica sushi restaurant was sentenced today to probation and fined $5,000 for serving meat from federally protected sei whales.

Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, who worked at The Hump at Santa Monica Airport, must also complete 200 hours of community service during his two-year term of probation, according to U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer. Yamamoto -- and fellow chef Susumu Ueda -- pleaded guilty last year to misdemeanor counts of conspiracy and the sale of marine mammals in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Ueda received the same sentence as Yamamoto earlier this month.

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The supplier of the whale meat, Ginichi Ohira, also pleaded guilty and is set to be sentenced June 23.

Authorities launched an investigation into The Hump after producers behind the documentary "The Cove" secretly filmed whale meat being served at the restaurant in 2009 and 2010.

The chefs and Typhoon Restaurant Inc., parent company of The Hump, were initially charged in 2010, but the charges were dropped, later refiled and revised last year.

The company and restaurant owner Brian Vidor were sentenced in April to fines and probation.

As part of a plea, Vidor admitted he was aware his sushi chefs were serving whale at the restaurant, and he allowed it. Yamamoto and Ueda purchased the meat from Gardena-based seafood dealer Ohira, who had procured it from a supplier in Japan, according to court documents.

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.

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