The team behind Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" have successfully orchestrated a sting operation at a California restaurant they accuse of serving up illegal whale meat. Louie Psyhoyos and Ric O'Barry's movie follows a group of activists as they struggle with police and fishermen to gain access to a secluded cove in Taiji, southern Japan, where dolphins are hunted.
Days after the film won the Best Documentary Oscar at Sunday's, March 7 Academy Awards, U.S. federal prosecutors announced the producers helped to uncover an alleged violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act at Santa Monica restaurant, The Hump. According to police reports, two undercover diners working with the documentary's associate producer and "director of clandestine operations", Charles Hambleton, requested whale as part of a $600 omakase - a sushi meal in which the chef picks the dishes. The pair pocketed a sample of and gentic testing confirmed it was meat from the endangered Sei whale.
Spokesman for the United States attorney for the Central District of California, Thom Mrozek, declined to say what charges could be brought against the restaurant, but said the office is "moving forward rapidly" and charges could come as early as this week. The Hump lawyer Gary Lincenberg tells the New York Times, "We're going to look into the allegations and try to determine what is true. Until we have done that, I don't have any other comment." The possession or sale of marine mammals can lead to a year in prison and a fine of $20,000.