TOKYO — Dolphins have been herded into a cove as part of an annual hunt in the Japanese seaside town made famous by an Oscar-winning documentary about their slaughter, anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd said Friday. A town official said none were killed.
The dolphin hunt at Taiji, documented in "The Cove," begins Sept. 1 every year. The boats returned empty Wednesday. But on Thursday, some dolphins were corralled into the inlet, according to Sea Shepherd and a fishing official in Taiji.
The official in charge of media queries at the Taiji fishing organization said a handful of dolphins were kept for aquariums, but the rest were set free this morning. He declined to give details.
He said the criticism the town has received from the West was unfair because residents were merely trying to make a living, and the rocky landscape made it difficult to go into farming or livestock.
Sea Shepherd said it has been monitoring Taiji with a small crew of Australians, New Zealanders, Americans and Japanese this week.
Ric O'Barry, who stars in "The Cove," has gathered about 100 people in Tokyo, including supporters from abroad, to protest the dolphin hunt. He took a petition with 1.7 million signatures from 155 nations to the U.S. Embassy on Thursday.
O'Barry, 70, the former dolphin trainer for the 1960s "Flipper" TV show, has received threats from a violent nationalist group and skipped going to Taiji this year, a trip he makes every year to try to save the dolphins.
He said he had been advised by Japanese authorities not to go to Taiji, and repeatedly stressed that he does not want confrontation.
He was flanked by police, as well as supporters, when he went to the U.S. Embassy. But some of his supporters said they are headed to Taiji.
Nationalist groups say criticism of dolphin hunting is a denigration of Japanese culture.
The Japanese government allows a hunt of about 20,000 dolphins a year, and argues that killing them — and whales — is no different from raising cows or pigs for slaughter. Most Japanese have never eaten dolphin meat and, even in Taiji, it is not consumed regularly.