Sushi Chefs Found Guilty Of Selling Illegal Whale Meat

Susumu Ueda and Kiyoshiro Yamamoto were found guilty of selling endangered whale meat at their Santa Monica sushi restaurant, Hump, in 2010. The L.A. Times reported that the two could face a maximum of three years in prison, though the prosecution will recommend a fine and community service instead. The two were indicted after being caught in a sting operation during Feb. and March 2010.

Illegal meat
Whales are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act. As such, both the import and sale of whale meat is illegal. However, despite this restriction, head sushi chef Ueda and Yamamoto contacted whale meat supplier Ginchi Ohira to arrange the purchase of $15,367.75 worth of product. The total package amounted to about 11 pounds and included red meat, whale bacon and tail meat. The two chefs indicated restaurant owner Brian Vidor and manager Chris Schaefer as complicit in the conspiracy to import illegal whale meat, though they have not been charged.

Sting operation
The two sushi chefs were indicted after a sting operation was conducted that included an associate producer of “The Cove” – a 2009 documentary that exposes Japanese dolphin-hunting practices. The chefs had been selling the whale meat off-menu since its purchase in 2007.

Cooking with controversial ingredients
This latest controversy raises concerns about the ethical practices of the culinary industry. In developing recipes and preparing dishes, chefs must balance sustainably sourced ingredients with traditionally prepared dishes. On the one hand, chefs have a responsibility to the environment to preserve and protect the food sources of the earth for current and future generations. However, on the other hand, chefs are often indebted to respect the traditions of the culture from which a food comes. The creative chef should work to find a middle ground wherein they are able to respect the culture of a particular food while at the same time preserving its origins.

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