LOS ANGELES, March 10 (UPI) -- Federal prosecutors Wednesday accused a Santa Monica, Calif., restaurant and one of its chefs of selling Sei whale meat illegally.
The sale of whale meat is banned in the United States under the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 and Sei whales are on the endangered species list, U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. said in a news release.
Prosecutors filed a criminal complaint Wednesday charging Typhoon Restaurant Inc. -- the parent company of The Hump restaurant at Santa Monica Airport -- and Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, 45, a chef at the restaurant, with the illegal sale of a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose.
"Federal law has a variety of provisions, including criminal statutes, intended to protect this planet's threatened natural resources," Birotte said. "People should be aware that we will use these criminal statutes where appropriate to protect endangered species, including to ensure that they do not end up part of a meal."
Prosecutors said The Hump sold whale sushi to customers on three occasions since October -- with scientists using DNA testing to determine the meat was Sei whale and receipts given to the restaurant's customers indicating they had purchased "whale."
The investigation began after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration received information from members of the public about the alleged violations, prosecutors said.