The Oscar-winning team behind the documentary “The Cove” has had a busy few weeks. Not only did they scoop the award for their chronicle of eco-activists’ battles with Japanese officials over dolphin hunting, on Feb.28 they coordinated with local law enforcement to enact a sting that had been planned since October, when the documentary’s associate producer first heard from friends that a Santa Monica sushi restaurant, the Hump, was serving illegal whale meat.
While some members of the operation texted back and forth to others waiting in a car outside, two more – rigged with video cameras and tiny microphones – were served “thick, pink slices” of what their waitress called whale. They choked down a few bites, tossed the meat into a bag, and later sent the meat for DNA testing. Oregon State University researchers confirmed the meat was from a Sei whale, which are endangered, but still hunted under the controversial Japanese scientific research program.
Federal officials repeated the sting, the meat was once again identified as whale, and by last Friday the officials had a warrant to search the restaurant for evidence. According to AOL:
“A warrant has been issued,” Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the US attorney for the Central District of California, told AOL News in a brief phone interview Tuesday morning. He did not say what the charges could be, but noted they could come as early as this week. According to a 13- page affidavit obtained by AOL News, there is “probable cause to believe that the Hump has illegally possessed and sold whale meat.”
The possession or sale of marine mammals is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and the owners of the restaurant, and employees, could face a year in prison and fines up to $20,000. [NY Times]