Ginichi Y. Ohira, 50, the Gardena seafood vendor who imported endangered whale meat from Tokyo and sold it to Southern California sushi restaurants, including the now-closed The Hump, pleaded guilty plea on Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court to a misdemeanor charge of knowingly selling a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose. He'll be sentenced on September 27th for the crime, a violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act. Ohira faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison, one year under supervised release and a fine of $100,000.
Ohira sold protected sei whale meat to The Hump, a restaurant near the Santa Monica airport that served it as part of an elaborate omakase meal. The whale meat was discovered by Louie Psihoyos, director of whale documentary The Cove, and Charles Hambleton, his “director of clandestine operations.” The duo, who won and Oscar for their heartbreaking film about dolphin slaughter, helped set up a sting that harpooned The Hump.
Ohira began importing whale meat from Japan about 10 years ago. Among his customers was a sushi chef from The Hump, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office. Whale meat is legal in several countries but not in the Republic of Santa Monica, or anywhere in the United States, for that matter.