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The Cove Filmmakers Bust LA Whale Restaurant

The Cove Filmmakers Bust LA Whale Restaurant

It’s not a situation that most Oscar-winning directors might find themselves in: One night clutching the gold statuette, the next day collaborating with the marine conservation unit of the Department of Commerce and the United States attorney. But if you’re Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove, this is probably just exactly the situation you’d hope to find yourself in.

According to a story in The New York Times, the filmmaking team, armed with video cameras and tiny microphones, orchestrated a Hollywood-gone-activist clandestine operation to ferret out what the authorities say is illegal whale meat at one of this town’s most highly regarded sushi destinations.

Much of the sting was conducted last week as the filmmakers gathered for the Academy Awards ceremony, and was coordinated with law enforcement officials. Charges against the restaurant, the Hump, for violating federal laws against selling marine mammals are expected to be brought soon.

The sushi operation began in October, when the documentary’s associate producer, Charles Hambleton, heard on the grapevine that the Hump, a highly rated sushi restaurant next to the runway at the Santa Monica airport, was serving whale.

Mr. Psihoyos’s team contacted the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a marine conservation unit of the Department of Commerce, which began its own investigation, eventually looping in the United States attorney in Los Angeles. According to The Times, team members split up between the sushi bar and a restaurant table and ordered sushi and communicated via text message with Mr. Psihoyos, who waited in a car in the parking lot. Mr. Psihoyos served as an electronic envoy between the investigators at the sushi bar, who were witnessing the chopping of fish and whale, and those sitting at a table.

Last week, several federal agents, including one from the Border Patrol and one who speaks Japanese, joined their team. Once again, the chef and wait staff more than once identified the meat as whale, the affidavit said, and it may have been obtained from a Mercedes parked behind the restaurant.

Armed with a search warrant, federal officials on Friday went searching for evidence from the restaurant, including marine mammal parts as well as various records and documents. The possession or sale of marine mammals is a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and can lead to a year in prison and a fine of $20,000.

Mr. Psihoyos, a former photojournalist who heads a nonprofit through which he makes his films, said that environmental action is more motivating to him than awards.

Related: Sign a petition! Help Save Japan’s Dolphins

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Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer is a writer and editor with a background in sustainable living, specializing in food, science and design. She is the co-author of True Food (National Geographic) and has edited and written for regional and international books and periodicals, including The New York Times Magazine. Melissa lives in Brooklyn, NY.


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9:57AM PDT on Apr 8, 2013

Thanks for busting these A-holes. So much for all that rhetoric about Whales hunted for research...very sad.

7:21AM PDT on Aug 3, 2012

Job well done. Let's hope they are prosecuted to the full extent.

4:14AM PDT on Mar 15, 2011


6:12AM PDT on Mar 13, 2011

Whales, elephants, rhinos, tigers... wish they would start living in the enlightened age.

4:50PM PST on Mar 10, 2011

Neil is correct. The green value of a electric hybrid is lost because of the cost to transport it here. I supported them at first because we needed to bring the awareness but now we can buy an American hybrid so no need to keep funding foreign car companies.

2:02PM PST on Mar 10, 2011

YOU ALL CAN DO SOMETHING POSITIVE, BOYCOTT ALL JAPANESE GOODS STOP BUYING THEIR AWFUL TOYOTAS ETC & ESPECIALLY ALL THE ELECTRONIC TRASH (YOU DO NOT NEED IT, AT LEAST TILL THEY STOP KILLING WHALES) I have been boycotting their goods for 30+ years but it needs millions of you also & if you think you can not do much then help organise a boycott with others. as Sam T. says

Keep the pressure on the Japanese to halt this brutality. DON'T buy any Japanese products, especially those cute electric cars you love to drive. That's how you will get them to stop. Hit them in their wallet! NB those cute electric cars are actually a waste of money & not nearly as "green"or money saving as you might think.

1:47PM PST on Mar 10, 2011

A big Thank You from me to the producers of the cove. Thank god for people like you.

8:53AM PST on Mar 10, 2011

GOD BLESS YOU for your success! You make life worth living and give us hope!

7:36AM PST on Mar 10, 2011

Them them ALL down. God Speed.

1:23AM PST on Mar 6, 2011

Thanks for the info.

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