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Santa Monica sushi restaurant to close after serving whale meat

March 20, 2010|By Tony Barboza | Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

A Santa Monica sushi restaurant facing federal charges for serving endangered whale meat appears set to close its doors Saturday, according to a statement posted to The Hump's website Friday which called the decision a "self-imposed punishment."

"The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species," read the statement on the restaurant's longstanding website.

Phone calls to the restaurant and its attorney were not answered late Friday.

Federal prosecutors last week charged the owner and chef of the restaurant at the Santa Monica Airport with the illegal sale of whale meat in violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, a misdemeanor that carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a maximum fine of $200,000.

While the restaurant immediately took responsibility once it was charged, the charges came only after an undercover sting operation that was orchestrated by animal activists and the associate producer of the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove."

The activists used a tiny video camera to record their payment of $600 for the omakase, or chef's choice, which included eight pieces of whale. The activists bagged samples of the meat and sent them to the Marine Mammal Institute, where they were determined to be Sei whale, an endangered species.

In the online posting, The Hump also vowed to make a "substantial contribution" to whale preservation or endangered species groups and apologized to the public for "our illegal actions."

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