LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A Gardena seafood dealer who imported endangered whale meat from Tokyo and sold it to local sushi restaurants faces up to one year in prison and a fine of $100,000 after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges.

Ginichi Y. Ohira, 50, entered a guilty plea late Tuesday in Los Angeles federal court to a misdemeanor charge of knowingly selling a marine mammal product for an unauthorized purpose, in violation of the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Specifically, Ohira sold protected sei whale meat to The Hump in Santa Monica, which closed its doors last year after federal prosecutors charged the owner and chef with sales of the federally protected mammal.

Ohira faces a maximum penalty of one year in federal prison, one year under supervised release, and a fine of $100,000, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

The defendant began importing whale meat from Japan about 10 years ago.

Among his customers was a sushi chef at The Hump, according to Ohira’s plea agreement with the government.

The meat was discovered in visits to the restaurant by undercover agents and environmental advocates who pocketed the sushi for testing.

Charges against the restaurant and chef were dismissed in 2010 after the eatery admitted serving up sei, pledged to make a substantial contribution to whale preservation or endangered species groups and shut down entirely.

The first word of the unusual offering at The Hump came from the Oscar-winning team behind the documentary “The Cove.” The filmmakers tipped off federal officials that the restaurant was serving sushi identified as sei whale.

Sei whales are listed as an endangered species, and the sale of all whale meat is prohibited in the United States by the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Ohira will be sentenced on Sept. 27, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services contributed to this report.)

Comments (8)
  1. John Andrews says:

    Another endangered species that is thriving in the open ocean.. It is only P.C. not endangered. Feel good legislation. That is all it is. I have eaten Sei before.. Tastes goooood!!

    1. Pam says:

      Well, I’m glad to see that my cynical view of people is never wrong. I understand that baby chimps are sold as “bush meat”. I bet you’d love that too. And cannibalism sounds right up your alley. I suggest you try to eat all the PC mammals that you can. I hope you choke.

  2. John C says:

    Wow pure ignorant.

  3. Mrviking says:

    For the person who erased my message to this post is a moron…. The other websites like Yahoo sports, LA times and San Gabriel news leave much more graphic and disturbing messages. My message was about A Japanese Importer profiting off a helpless and endangered species whales and being sold in Los Angeles to customers that new exactly what they were eating. I totally disapprove of these actions towards Gods mammals

  4. Whale watcher says:

    Shame on the individual for importing an endangered species to the public
    Shame on you Sushi consumers for partacking and Indulging yourself at the sushi bar on the whale behalf
    Shame on the Restaurant sushi bars for profiting off the whales

  5. phil says:

    Sentence him to a year of eating nothing but Whale poo and revoke his business license.

  6. Chilly Willy says:

    I thought Eskimos ate whale all the time.
    Nuke Alaska.

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