Whale-serving restaurant may get legal break

SANTA MONICA, Calif. Operators of the Santa Monica restaurant, /*The Hump*/, closed the sushi restaurant in March after admitting that Sei whale meat was served in violation of the federal /*Marine Mammal Protection Act*/.

The U.S. Attorney's office is asking that charges be dismissed against Typhoon Restaurant Inc., the parent company of The Hump, and one of the now-closed eatery's former chefs, Kiyoshiro Yamamoto.

"We're asking for dismissal 'without prejudice' -- meaning we can refile," said Thom Mrozek, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office. " This investigation remains open and active." Mrozek says a federal magistrate judge must approve the request.

Sei whales are listed as an endangered species and the sale of all whale meat in the United States is illegal. The restaurant closed its doors in March after accusations that The Hump served whale meat became public.

"The Hump hopes that by closing its doors, it will help bring awareness to the detrimental effect that illegal whaling has on the preservation of our ocean ecosystem and species, " said a statement posted on the restaurant's Web site, TheHump.biz. "Closing the restaurant is a self-imposed punishment on top of the fine that will be meted out by the court."

Associated Press and City News Service contributed to this story

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