Two chefs and the ownership group of long-shuttered Santa Monica, California restaurant The Hump face felony charges for serving illegal endangered whale meat. The group was originally charged with misdemeanors three years ago when a sting discovered the Hump served endangered Sei whale as part of an omakase tasting menu.
And now, according to the Los Angeles Times, a grand jury has decided to change those misdemeanors to felonies: one of the chefs, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, could face up to 67 years in prison if convicted. The parent company is looking at a fine of $1.2 million. That's some expensive sushi.
The sting operation, by the way, was led by rock singer Zoli Teglas and the Oscar-winning documentarians of The Cove, a film that exposed dolphin hunting practices in Japan. During the sting, a waitress was captured describing a dish as containing "whale"; a piece of the meat was then taken from the restaurant and analyzed in a lab, where it was determined to be Sei whale meat. The Hump shuttered amid the ensuing scandal, saying in a statement, "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."