September 10, 2009

Japanese Town Continues Annual Dolphin Hunt Despite Protesters

Local officials of a Japanese coastal town said on Thursday they have gone ahead with their controversial dolphin hunt as animal-rights activists continue to protest them, AFP reported.

Wakayama prefectural official Yasushi Shimamura said fishermen in Taiji caught about 100 bottlenose dolphins and 50 pilot whales on Wednesday, in their first catch since the fishery season started on September 1.

An official at a local fishermen's cooperative said all whale meat will be sold for human consumption, but they plan to sell about 50 dolphins to aquariums nationwide and release the remainder back into the sea.

The award winning eco-documentary 'The Cove', in which a team of filmmakers covertly covered the town's annual dolphin hunt event in graphic detail, drew international attention to the event earlier this year.

The Australian coastal city of Broome ended its sister-city relationship with Taiji to protest the hunt after the film's release.

Town officials said international pressure had not effected their decisions, even though they assured they would not slaughter any of the dolphins caught on Wednesday.

One fisheries cooperative official, who declined to give his name, said the recent protesting from animal rights activists didn't spur their decision to release the rest of the dolphins.

"From the viewpoint of resource control, we've been occasionally releasing them on our own judgment in the past," the official said.

The International Whaling Commission's ban on commercial whaling does not prohibit hunting dolphins and small whales, but Japan's Fisheries Agency hands out annual quotas to several fishing towns in order to restrict the practice.

Prefectural official Shimamura said Taiji was allocated a quota of about 2,300 small cetaceans this year, including dolphins.

Cetaceans are mostly hairless aquatic mammals, such as dolphins, whales and porpoises.

Taiji has strongly defended its tradition of hunting whales and dolphins and Shimamura said the people in Taiji, as well as Wakayama prefecture, hope that animal rights activists understand the cultural difference between them.