Ginichi Ohira pleaded guilty this week to illegally selling whale meat to Southern California restaurants, reports the LA Times. He now faces 8-14 months in prison, which could include one year of probation and a fine of more than $100,000.
The 50-year old seafood dealer came under the scrutiny of government investigators last year when filmmakers from "The Cove" (a documentary about dolphin killing in Japan), visited The Hump, a Santa Monica restaurant known for its omakase (chef's choice sushi) and adventurous menu. An undercover operation undertaken by federal investigators, marine wildlife advocates, and the filmmakers revealed that the restaurant was serving endangered whale sushi -- a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Ohira pleaded guilty to selling whale meat to The Hump as well as other Southern California sushi restaurants. Sentencing will take place later on this year.
For now, federal prosecutors have dismissed the charges against The Hump restaurant and the chef who served the whale meat, although a U.S. Attorney's spokesman clarified that they could be re-charged in the future, reports the Associated Press.
In what The Hump called "self-imposed punishment," the restaurant closed its doors in March 2010 with this statement: "The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystems and species." The Hump's parent company, Typhoon Restaurant Inc., acknowledged their wrongdoing and agreed to pay a fine last year when the scandal broke.