By now you’ve probably heard that Santa Monica restaurant the Hump allegedly served endangered Sei whale meat to the team that put together the brilliant, Oscar-winning documentary “The Cove.” Endangered whale served in our own backyard, less than two miles from my house and the offices of Heal the Bay, Santa Monica Baykeeper and the NRDC!
When my wife Lisette first called me about the New York Times piece I thought she was citing The Onion, not the Times. Then I got pissed.
I sent an e-mail to some Santa Monica city councilmembers asking them to take action immediately. Santa Monica is known as one of the most environmentally sensitive cities in the nation, so a local sushi house selling whale is an outrage and an embarrassment.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown, a vegetarian, responded by asking City Attorney Marsha Moutrie to investigate if a violation of the law is grounds for revoking the Hump’s business license.
Councilmembers Terry O’Day and Richard Bloom also contacted the city attorney. After all, the restaurant actually sits on Santa Monica property at the airport, so a violation of the law should be grounds for revoking its business license or canceling its lease. (The full council was scheduled to discuss the matter at its regular Tuesday night meeting.)
Joel Reynolds, the NRDC environmental attorney extraordinaire and longtime whale advocate, reminds me: “Whales are protected domestically under both the Marine Mammal Protection Act (“MMPA”), 16 U.S.C. § 1361 et seq., and the Endangered Species Act (“ESA”), 16 U.S.C. § 1531 et seq. The MMPA imposes a “moratorium on the taking and importation of marine mammals and marine mammal products.” 16 U.S.C. § 1371(a). “Taking” is broadly defined to include “harass, hunt, capture or kill.” Id. at § 1362(13).
He further notes: “In addition, international treaties prohibit both commercial whaling and the trade in whale products. Under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the International Whaling Commission imposed a moratorium on all commercial whaling that went into effect in 1986. And the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna prohibits the trade in whale meat or products. The United States has signed and ratified both treaties. There is no question that serving whale meat to restaurant customers in this country is illegal. It is, therefore, shocking to learn that whale meat may have been served in a restaurant in Santa Monica.”
In a humorous dig at my family, Councilman McKeown also opined that “We need to do something before Mark’s brother (L.A. Weekly food critic Jonathan Gold) goes there and gives the joint a favorable review.”
As a point of fact, my bro likes exotic food but he actually hates the Hump because it is “gimmicky and weird.”
“Restaurants resort to gimmicks generally because their chefs just aren’t very good,” he tells me.
More ominously, the Times article notes that the whale came from the trunk of a Mercedes, not exactly a reputable source of the ocean’s bounty. Santa Monica Seafood it ain’t. Usually you see prawns sold from the ice-filled trunk of a 1983 Crown Victoria. Now we’ll have to look twice at the luxury cars parked at sushi joints because they could be selling endangered whale or bluefin.
Bottom line: I urge the city of Santa Monica to revoke The Hump’s business license or cancel its lease. Also, the L.A. County Department of Public Health should shut the place down immediately for health violations. The fact that a local restaurant is allegedly buying seafood, let alone an endangered species like Sei whale, from the back of a car has to be a health violation of some sort.
As for the owner of the Hump, a mere $20K fine for violations of the Marine Mammal Protection Act or Endangered Species Act hardly fits the crime. I would suggest some serious hard time behind bars, or better yet, a lifetime of restitution of at least $100K and 100 hours a year to go towards environmental groups fighting the continuing barbaric action of whaling. The action should continue until a global whaling ban takes place. Famed animal rights activist Paul Watson could be his designated community service officer.
We should also all thank Louis Psihoyos and his “A-Team” of covert eco-spies and eco-heroes. If you haven’t seen “The Cove,” which chronicles Japan’s hidden dolphin slaughter, go see it immediately. If you have seen it, go see it again. The team’s use of modern surveillance technology puts Bond to shame. Their efforts are saving the Earth in real life, not just in the movies.