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Restaurant Accused of Serving Whale Could Be Shuttered  

By Jonathan Friedman
Lookout Staff

March 10, 2010 -- A popular sushi restaurant already under federal investigation for allegedly serving endangered whale meat has also caught the attention of the City Attorney’s Office. Located on the City-owned airport property, The Hump is at risk of losing its lease.

City Attorney Marsha Moutrie said at Tuesday’s City Council meeting that she had requested a copy of the restaurant’s lease. She had not yet received a copy, but Moutrie said nearly all City leases contain language requiring tenants to follow the laws.

“And so it is correct that if a lessee were to violate a law, there are some steps the city could take relating to the lease,” Moutrie said.

She added, “We can also investigate whether that type of unlawful conduct, assuming it did occur, would be the basis of some kind of revocation of the business license.”

Moutrie said her office’s investigation would finish in time for a council member to place the issue on the March 23 council meeting agenda. Council member Richard Bloom urged for a swift examination.

“I certainly was outraged when I learned about this from reading an e-mail earlier today, and I know everybody on this dais probably is too,” Bloom said.

No other council members commented on the matter. City officials were limited on how much they could say because the item was not on the agenda.


It came up as a topic because Mark Gold, head of the environmental group Heal the Bay, spoke about it during the public comment portion of the meeting.

Gold called the alleged serving of the endangered sei whale “pretty much as egregious as you can possibly do.”

“For Santa Monica of all places, the most environmentally friendly city in the state of California, to basically play host to this is a pretty extraordinary situation,” Gold said.

He asked that the City revoke The Hump’s business license or “kick them out as tenants.”

The U.S. Department of Justice has confirmed it is investigating the allegation. Charges could be brought against The Hump this week. The matter has received national attention after an article about the investigation appeared in The New York Times on Monday.

Management and legal representatives for The Hump have declined to publicly comment about the allegation.

Federal officials were tipped off by environmental activists who say they conducted a sting revealing whale to be on the restaurant’s unofficial menu. The activists were also involved in the making of “The Cove,” which received the Best Documentary trophy at Sunday’s Academy Awards.

“The Cove” exposed the annual killing of thousands of dolphins off the Japanese coast through the use of undercover cameras.


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