U.S. News

L.A. eatery charged with serving whale meat closes

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A Los Angeles-area sushi restaurant that made international headlines after it was charged with serving endangered whale meat will close forever as a “self-imposed punishment,” according to a statement on its website.

The parent company of the The Hump, a popular Santa Monica restaurant, and sushi chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto were charged on March 11 with violating the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which makes it illegal to sell whale meat.

Federal prosecutors have said that the case stemmed from informants who were served whale meat at The Hump in October 2009 and evolved into a sting operation by U.S. wildlife and customs officials.

The federal charge carries a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison and a maximum fine of $100,000 for an individual or $200,000 for an organization.

A statement on the website said the eatery, which was picketed by protesters after the charges made news around the world, would be shuttered as of Saturday.

“The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effects that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species,” the statement said.

“Closing the restaurant is a self-imposed punishment on top of the fine that will be meted out by the court,” the statement said. The restaurant apologized for its “illegal actions.”

According to the statement, the restaurant’s owners would make a substantial contribution to organizations dedicated to the preservation of whales and other endangered species.

The New York Times has reported that the team of activists behind the “The Cove,” a film about dolphin hunting that won an Academy Award for Best Documentary Film earlier this month, coordinated with federal officials on the sting operation.

The paper said that an associate producer on “The Cove” created a tiny camera that two activists wore into the restaurant, where they were served the whale meat.

The activists sent samples to the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University, which confirmed that they were from an endangered Sei whale, the Times said.

The Hump, which has only six tables and has a view of the Pacific Ocean, has been open for 12 years.

Editing by Eric Beech