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Mar 9, 2010 09:44 AM

The Hump serves whale?

NY Times article about the filmmakers who won the Oscar for best documentary conducting a covert operation on the Hump in Santa Monica to show they illegally serve whale. It's hard to believe that they were so blatant about serving something illegal. Call me a cynic, but I would htink they would keep it for their regulars and not for two random people who happened to walk in. Has anyone come across this? I will not be patronizing the Hump anytime soon.

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  1. Not even random people, but Hollywood politico types with an agenda.

    They were probably doubly pissed at the fact they got charged $600 w/o sake for the meal too.

    I suppose that secret beef restaurant better be careful, and other places that serve rare exotic imported delicacies...

    1 Reply
    1. re: K K

      Secret beef restaurant doesn't serve anything illegal...that I know of. Just high quality ultra fresh beef.

      The raw liver can be dangerous though

    2. I was offered whale at The Hump about four years ago and was not a regular.

      I had gone there with a friend and ordered a couple bottles of sake and lots of food (toro, kobe beef, live amaebi, etc.). A bit into the meal we asked whether there was anything special available that was not on the menu.

      We were told that whale and raw horse were available. Since we were surprised we asked the waitress if we heard her correctly and she confirmed that whale was available. We did not order the whale, but did have the raw horse (served with soy sauce and ginger).

      38 Replies
      1. re: joshekg

        Man, this news is snowballing. i've seen headlines on almost every site I have visited today plus facebook and twitter all over the place. They should probably close the place down and reopen under a different name and concept in order to avoid Typhoon also going down with the ship (same owners). I'm not really a food activist, but a serving a few things (like endangered whale) will keep me from ever going back to either restaurant. I'm sure other LA diners won't be that kind either. It's too bad, it's such a cool location. I would hate to be them if the their lease with the City of Santa Monica is near renewal. Ouch.

        1. re: wooster

          You might find eating whale morally reprehensible, but the kind that is served in restaurants (in Japan, for the most part) isn't endangered. But Chilean seabass is endangered. Bluefin tuna is getting there, not to mention countless other seafoods. Maybe we should be as outraged at restaurants that serve these as well.

          1. re: E Eto

            Exactly! Wonder how many of the outraged refrain from bluefin tuna and from chilean seabass.

            1. re: Porthos

              You pick your battles. Hot buttons right now are whales and dolphins. There are always several people that come out shouting about hypocrisy and belittle the outrage of those who are disgusted by this. Every little bit helps and when movements that limit the killing and eating of specific endangered species get started they tend to grow and open eyes to other food sustainability issues. No one is a hypocrite for caring about this issue, they are hopefully just getting started.

              1. re: wooster

                Picking and choosing which endangered species to eat IS hypocritical.

                Anyone outraged at eating whale due to its endangered nature but happily chows down on miso glazed chilean sea bass and bluefin tuna sashimi is a hypocrite.

                Definition of hyopcrite from Merriam-Webster:
                1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion
                2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

            2. re: E Eto

              First, the article did note that the type of whale they were serving was endangered.
              With regard to your point, I think that it is not always a matter of hypocrisy as a matter of ignorance. It's hard to keep track of all the endangered/unsustainably raised fish out there even with the lists provided by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, etc. Besides, I haven't seen Chilean seabass or Patagonian toothfish anywhere in a long time. Consumer outrage, even if selective, makes a difference.

              1. re: ChineseChou

                FWIW, I see Chilean Seabass aka Patagonian toothfish on lots of menus in lots of places. Apparently, in Vegas, at least one restaurant thinks that consumers will be more willing to order it than they would be to order Mahi-Mahi (because it is more familiar to them):


                1. re: susancinsf

                  Mahi Mahi also can be a poor seafood choice, depending on how and where it was caught. According to the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch program, Mahi Mahi caught in US/Atlantic waters by trolling and pole and line methods is a good choice, whereas imported longline Mahi Mahi produces bycatch (birds, sea turtles, etc.) and is considered an unsustainable method for catching this type of fish.

                  Mr Taster

                  1. re: Mr Taster

                    The issue is more that other countries do not have as strict regulations as the US, and so there is no guarantee that imported Mahi Mahi is caught as cleanly as it is in US fisheries, even though it could be. Seafood Watch values clear straightforward designations (for good reasons), which means that it can tend to be more conservative than necessary.

              2. re: E Eto

                Out of curiousity, which species of whale is that kind?

                Identifying which types of whale aren't endangered would be tricky even if it were legal to sell/import. And where it is illegal, well, I can imagine they aren't going to give a full description on the menu....

                When I enter 'whale' into the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, I get the following answer: "Sorry, we are unable to find a match for your search". Enter tuna or seabass and I get very, very detailed answers. I think that ambiguity in the face of general understanding that most whale species are endangered or threatened, is a big part of what generates the outrage.

                Of course, there are those who have a problem with eatiing whales or dolphins not because of their endangered (or not) status, but because, well, they are whales, and perceived (probably or perhaps correctly?) as among the more intelligent mammals. That's an entirely different issue of course....

                1. re: susancinsf

                  Pigs are also one of the more intelligent mammals as well, where you could teach it to do the same tricks a dog could do. And, yet we all love to eat pigs.

                  To me, it just seems ironic that people would get upset about eating whale sushi because of sustanability concerns when they're the same people who are eating bluefin tuna into extinction. From an enviornmental point of view, those people should be eating bottom feeders.

                  1. re: hobbess

                    > And, yet we all love to eat pigs.

                    We do?

                    1. re: susancinsf

                      "Out of curiosity, which species of whale is that kind?"

                      It's the sei whale. Listed as endangered

                      1. re: susancinsf

                        In the US, all marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act - so it is illegal to serve (catch/harass/kill/etc.) any species of whale. What makes this situation worse (besides it being illegal in the US) is that Sei is a species that Japan does not have licenses to catch (even for "scientific" purposes), and is endangered, so selling from the Japan to the US runs afoul of international laws restricting trade in endangered species (in addition to US laws).

                        1. re: hye

                          "In the US, all marine mammals are protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act - so it is illegal to serve (catch/harass/kill/etc.) any species of whale."

                          I believe that is not entirely true. As far as I know certain indigenous tribes in the Pacific NW (and I believe Alaska) are permitted to take a limited number of whales as part of their cultural and religious practices.

                          1. re: Servorg

                            Servorg, I believe you are correct, at least as of a few years ago. The daughter of friends, a vet in Barrow, Alaska, observed the legal annual whale catch as a government 'overseer'. (and as part of that process had eaten whale; she is the one I asked, as mentioned in an earlier post, how it tasted.).

                            1. re: Servorg

                              Well, true to the extent that the federal government also issues permits/licenses to indigenous tribes and scientific researchers. If you ask those people, they will probably mention as such -- not so for sushi chefs who serve whale, I imagine.

                              1. re: hye

                                It actually has never gone up through the courts as far as I know, but since these tribes are "sovereign nations" they may well not need the Fed's to issue them permits or licenses to take whales as part of their practices.

                                1. re: Servorg

                                  Actually, the MMPA applies to "taking and importation" of certain "marine species". Thus, anyone who violates the MMPA -- be it native americans or otherwise -- could be prosecuted under the law.

                                  That said, there is a specific exemption for Esikmos and Native American tribes:

                                  "The 1972 law exempted Indians, Aleut, and Eskimos (who dwell on the coast of the North Pacific Ocean) from the moratorium on taking provided that taking was conducted for the sake of subsistence or for the purpose of creating and selling authentic native articles of handicraft and clothing. In addition, the law stipulated conditions under which the Secretaries of Commerce and Interior could issue permits to take marine mammals for the sake of public display and scientific research."

                                  Also, note that the MMPA applies only to the "taking and importation" of certain marine species. Arguably, eating such species would not constitute such a "taking".

                                  Groups like the Humane Society (for example) will argue that eating a protected species under the MMA constitutes a violation, but if one actually reads the text of the law, it only applies to things like killing, harrassing, capturing, etc. of such species.

                                  Once the marine mammal has been captured and killed by someone else, and then served to someone else, e.g. the diner, for consumption, I could certainly make the case that under the text of the law there the diner has not violated the law. [Paging Justice Scalia! Nino where are you?!]

                                  Whale blubber is great seared, by the way.

                        2. re: E Eto

                          Chilean seabass (pantagonian toothfish) is endangered?

                            1. re: Bjartmarr

                              Where does it say the species is endangered?

                              1. re: PeterL

                                All of the recommendations by seafood watch are backed up by scientific reports, available on their website.

                                Here is the one for Chilean Sea Bass, so you can read it yourself:


                                The Executive Summary states:

                                "Two species of toothfish are marketed in the U.S. as “Chilean seabass.” Both inhabit deep waters of the Southern Ocean surrounding Antarctica. Both have natural lifespans of several decades and are slow-growing species with low fecundity. Despite efforts by an international management body, the fishery is plagued with high levels of illegal and
                                unreported fishing. There is international concern that the resource is seriously overfished. There are also grave concerns about bycatch of seabirds, including endangered albatrosses, in the bottom longline fishery."

                                The report goes on to give further information about the specific nature of the risk to the species, fisheries, impact on the endangered albatross, etc

                                1. re: susancinsf

                                  I understand all that, Susan. What I am responding to is whether Chilean Sea Bass is an endangered species. Nothing on that site says so. I know it's overfished and plagued with illegal harvesting, but again I don't think it has attained endangered status, which is a very specific designation. Same goes for shark fin.

                                  1. re: PeterL

                                    and I get that; but then I don't think the only measure of whether it is responsible to eat something is whether or not it is endangered. Besides, if something is endangered and thus protected, I think that one can say it can't be sustainably fished, by definition. Unless someone is farming whales somewhere (and in a sustainable manner), how can there possibly be a sustainable fishery of endangered species of whales?

                                    with shark fin, I believe it depends on the species of shark whether or not it is threatened or endangered and has that designation (and the same is true of whales), but the problem of course is that you never see the species of shark identified on the menu in the shark fin's soup, and you have no way of knowing the specific source. In the case of sharks, I believe the odds are such that the fin will be from a shark species that is endangered or threatened.

                                    Most people (in western cultures outside of Native Alaskans, at least) don't have the same visceral reaction to eating chilean sea bass that they do to eating whale . The reason, IMO, is not just that one is on an endangered species list and one is not. It is at least in part an emotional reaction to the concept of eating a species (whale) that is admired in many human cultures for its beauty, grace and intelligence.

                                    and I can understand that. For example, I don't eat octopus. Has very little to do with sustainability (again, some species can be fished sustainably, others no, and several varieties are listed by Seafood Watch as a 'good alternative'). Rather, I don't eat octopus because, based on my personal interactions with them, I find them to be exceptionally beautiful, graceful and intelligent creatures....

                                    squid, OTOH....

                                      1. re: linguafood


                                        its an emotional thing, not a logical thing, and while I have heard that pigs are quite intelligent, I haven't had any personal experience with them. Much more likely to find me underwater than hanging around a pig farm.

                                        Which was the point I was trying to make: it isn't just about logic or consistency or morality or whether something is on a list or not. Some folks have a visceral reaction to some things.

                                        Nor am I judging that visceral reaction. I am just pointing out that it exists. and when it comes to octopus, it prevents me from enjoying it, even though I have indeed tasted octopus in the past, and have found it to be very tasty.

                                        Personally, I've never (knowlingly) eaten whale, but a friend has, and when she described the experience to me, naturally (being a Chowhound and all) my first question was, "So, did you think it tasted good?"

                                      2. re: susancinsf

                                        The problem with shark finning is that in places outside the US, fishermen take just the fin (because it fetches the highest price per unit mass) and throw the fish back into the water. The shark usually dies shortly afterward, and the vessel comes to shore with a hold full of fins.

                                        In the US, it was legal, until recently (maybe just a few years ago) to have shark fins as long as you had an equal number of sharks in the hold. So the unethical fishermen would go out, get fins from the largest sharks, dump those fish back, then catch a bunch of smaller sharks, dump their fins back, and then come to shore. (This was obviously a major problem and a reason for the new law.) Now, you are required to have the fins attached to the shark when you return to shore.

                                        Of course, it would super nice if Obama acted like the President of Palau, who has been involved in multiple shark fin burning ceremonies. (The Palau authorities seize some vessel fishing illegally, and the president makes a big deal out of burning the illegal goods!)

                                        Shark finning is a much bigger problem in Asia due to the demand for ceremonies (shark fin soup at weddings) and for use in alternative medicines. I would say that a good portion of the demand in the US is because of Asian immigrants here, but obviously, the US can only manage a small fraction of the problem.

                                        Octopuses are actually considered honorary vertebrates in the UK when it comes to laws that govern scientific testing/animal cruelty/etc.

                                      3. re: PeterL


                                        It sounds like you're asking whether it's been placed on the federal endangered species list. To the best of my knowledge, it has not. That does not mean that it is not endangered, in the broader meaning of the term.

                                        1. re: PeterL

                                          There are fairly strict guidelines on adding species to the IUCN red list that may require data on the original (pre-human impact) population size and current population size. In some cases this is not available (and species are listed under "not enough data").

                                          Even if one does not mind eating non-sustainably caught fish, there is some worry that what you are buying may not be actual chilean sea bass, but another fish species that may cause health issues.

                                          I should add that there is a "sustainable" fishery for Chilean Sea Bass / Patagonian Toothfish at least as far as the Marine Stewardship Council is concerned. Not everyone (myself included) thinks MSC certification is very valid, but I bring it up just to note that there are disagreements between different agencies over what is sustainable and what is not. I have my own issues with Seafood Watch.

                                2. re: E Eto

                                  2 of the 3 species of bluefin tuna are endangered, and most (if not all) fishery scientists believe the the last is, if not endangered, at least in the realm of "we should not be fishing this anymore". The reality of the situation is that the scientific body that analyzes the stock can (and does) say "the sustainable harvesting level for this fish is 0", but then the countries which sponsor that scientific body then turn around and set their own harvest numbers anyway.

                                  That, of course, doesn't include any countries that harvest bluefin tuna on the high seas and don't follow any of the (voluntary) laws on international fishing. Yay, politics!

                              2. re: joshekg

                                It is illegal to serve horsemeat in the U.S. It is also illegal to serve an endangered species, which the variety at The Hump was. Idiots!

                                1. re: pikawicca

                                  "It is illegal to serve horsemeat in the U.S."

                                  It is certainly not illegal in all states in the US.

                                      1. re: Servorg

                                        There are currently on Federal or State standards for the raising of horses as food, not are there any slaughterhouses in the U.S. licensed to process equines. Therefore, any horse meat you encounter in an American restaurant is illegal.

                                        1. re: pikawicca

                                          When I had the horse meat (2006) it was still available for human consumption here. Since then, the slaughterhouses have been shut down. It may still be legal to import.

                              3. omg that's terrible, I will never go there again

                                1. they will never see my face in either the hump nor in typhoon ever again.

                                  1. I have had some amazing -- and amazingly overpriced meals -- at the Hump. And I have always love the triple entendre of the restaurant's name:
                                    1. Pilot lingo for flying over the Himalayas
                                    2. It's perched over another restaurant (Typhoon)
                                    3. .........use your imagination......................
                                    But, now I see it is a QUADRUPLE entendre:
                                    4. Hump-back Whale