Dolphin hunt kicks off in Japan 'Cove' town
A flotilla of boats went to sea in the morning but failed to catch any of the sea mammals on the first day.
Wed, Sep 01, 2010 at 03:36 AM
THE COVE: Every year, fishermen in Taiji herd about 2,000 dolphins into a secluded bay, select several dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and harpoon the rest for meat. (Photo: Junji Kurokawa/AP)
Fishermen from the Japanese town depicted in Oscar-winning eco-documentary "The Cove" kicked off their annual dolphin hunting season Wednesday, undeterred by international criticism.
A flotilla of boats went to sea in the morning but failed to catch any of the sea mammals on the first day, said a local government official from Taiji in southwestern Wakayama prefecture, who asked not to be named.
Every year, fishermen in Taiji herd about 2,000 dolphins into a secluded bay, select several dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and harpoon the rest for meat, a practice long deplored by animal rights activists.
The Taiji official said several foreigners with cameras were seen walking around town, but that there had been no protests and no confrontations between animal rights activists and pro-dolphin-hunting nationalist groups.
"I have no idea what the foreigners' intentions are, but there is nothing unusual going on in the town. Our stance remains the same. The town will continue hunting dolphins no matter what they say," said the official.
Success of 'The Cove'
"The Cove," directed by Louie Psihoyos, won the Academy Award for best documentary this year, and has been followed up by a series that has started screening on cable channel Animal Planet called "Blood Dolphins."
The team that shot "The Cove" over several years often worked clandestinely and at night to elude local authorities and angry fishermen, setting up disguised cameras underwater and in forested hills around the rocky cove.
Individual fishermen in Taiji routinely decline to speak to foreign media, but they have the support of many local people in the town of 3,700 who defend hunting dolphins, porpoises and small whales as a centuries-old tradition.
Right-wing nationalist groups in Japan — known for their ear-splitting street demonstrations using megaphones — have attacked "The Cove" as anti-Japanese and tried to stop its screenings by harassing movie theaters.
Such harassment forced the film's distributor to scrap screenings in June, but it managed the first commercial showing at a police-guarded Tokyo theatre in July, despite a brief skirmish between right-wingers and supporters.
'I see no impact from the movie'
The official said Taiji had expected protesters against the dolphin hunts to flock to the town Wednesday but he told AFP: "I see no impact from the movie. The town's stance to continue dolphin hunting will not change either."
Activist Ric O'Barry, a central character in "The Cove", wrote in his blog that his campaign, Save Japan Dolphins, had called off a visit to Taiji after receiving news that "extreme nationalist groups are set to confront us."
Instead, he said he and other volunteers would on Thursday visit the U.S. embassy in Tokyo "to symbolically present 1.7 million signatures from 151 countries" in a campaign to end the annual dolphin hunts.
Copyright 2010 AFP Asian Edition
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