A Whale of a Problem

The Hump, an upscale sushi hangout at the Santa Monica airport, recently got caught serving endangered sei whale. Facing jail time, huge fines, television cameras, and daily placard-wielding protesters, the owner tried to quell the tsunami of fury by emailing a series of apologetic announcements, the last one stating that the 12-year-old business would close for good.

But press releases, excellent tools though they may be, cannot alone bring closure.

The revelation couldn’t have had worse timing from the restaurant’s perspective – or better, for conservationists and humanists (and whales). Just before the bust, “The Cove” won the Academy Award for documenting the herding and bludgeoning of dolphins in Japan.

The Marine Mammal Protection Act wasn’t enough to keep the creature off The Hump’s menu – unless you consider “off menu” to be the trunk of a Mercedes, from which the meat was reportedly doled out to wealthy gourmands on the sly. The p.r. mea culpas only came after the restaurant was harpooned in a sting operation.

Facing the inevitable, The Hump acted with prudence. It accepted full responsibility for its sneaky venality and greed (without using those words unfortunately). The owner even promised (beyond the possible fines up to $200,000 and a year in prison for the chef) to make a “substantial contribution to one or more responsible organizations dedicated to the preservation of whales and other endangered species.”

One of those endangered entities would appear to be another restaurant called Typhoon. It’s located just downstairs from The Hump, also operating on a lease from the City of Santa Monica. And owned by the same person.

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