California eatery, chef accused of serving whale

LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) The owner and chef of a high-end sushi restaurant in Santa Monica, Calif., are facing criminal charges for allegedly serving illegal whale meat, local reports said Wednesday.

Staff members who worked on the U.S. film “The Cove,” which won the Oscar for best documentary Sunday by shooting a contentious annual dolphin slaughter in an inlet near the town of Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, partly with hidden cameras, tipped off local authorities after visiting The Hump restaurant last year, secretly filming the meat in a $600 meal they ordered and pocketing samples, according to U.S. media.

Prosecutors are quoted as saying a search warrant executed at the eatery last week confirmed The Hump had sold Sei whale meat on at least three occasions since October. DNA tests on the samples reportedly confirmed it was Sei.

If convicted, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, a 45-year-old chef of Japanese ancestry, will face up to a year in prison and $100,000 in fines, and Typhoon Restaurant Inc., which owns The Hump, up to $200,000.