Despite pleas from animal conservationists around the world, the annual dolphin hunt at Japan's infamous Taiji cove continues this year.
According to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a Washington-based nonprofit group that protects marine life, Japanese fishermen rounded up more than 250 dolphins, including babies and juveniles, into the cove Saturday — the largest round-up in years. (Via CNN)
Among the group is an extremely rare juvenile albino dolphin, which could fetch millions of dollars. (Via Sea Shepherd Conservation Society)
In a statement, the group warned that by Sunday morning the selection process will begin: "Babies and mothers will be torn from each other's sides as some are taken for captivity, some are killed, and others are driven back out to sea to fend for themselves." (Via Al Jazeera)
The annual dolphin hunt gained attention in 2009 after the release of the Academy Award-winning documentary "The Cove," which detailed the dolphin-hunting process in Taiji — most notably, the way the water of the cove turns red with blood after the hunt. (Via Lionsgate, HLN)
Taiji, a town of about 3,000 in Southeast Japan, claims the hunt is an important ritual dating back centuries. The local government condemned the film, which it says has brought "repeated psychological harassment" to Taiji fishermen, writing in a statement: "Taiji dolphin fishermen are just conducting a legal fishing activity in their traditional way in full accordance with regulations and rules under the supervision of both the national and the prefectural governments. Therefore, we believe there are no reasons to criticize the Taiji dolphin fishery." (Via USA Today)
Several celebrities and public officials have weighed in on the issue, most recently, U.S. Ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy — the daughter of former President John F. Kennedy. (Via YouTube / Take Part)
She tweeted: "Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing. [The U.S. government] opposes drive hunt fisheries."
Dolphins captured in the cove are either sold into captivity or slaughtered and sold for consumption, despite reports that dolphin meat might contain high levels of mercury and other toxins.