The annual dolphin hunt in the Japanese town of Taiji, which has been the subject of international condemnation and Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, has begun after a delayed start due to bad weather.
However, on the first day of the hunt, which involves fishermen driving hundreds of the animals into a secluded cove where they are later dispatched by having a metal rod driven into their necks, no dolphins died, as the twelve boats failed to trap any.
The boats will set sail again for another attempt on 4 September, if the weather allows, a Taiji fisheries spokeswoman said.
The hunt has taken place for centuries, but was thrust into the public eye after the release of The Cove in 2009, which was secretly recorded at the Taiji hunts over the course of five years.
Annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
1/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A bottlenose dolphin was seen floating on back before slaughter
2/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen hiding their culture and tradition
3/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Remaining pod swims just a few feet from the slaughter of their family
4/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Dolphin drive out to sea
5/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Lathered in blood, fishermen receive more transfers of dolphin carcasses
6/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen enter the cove just after sunrise
7/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A juvenile Bottlenose barely surfaces during drive out. The chances of survival are slim after 5 tormenting days in the cove
8/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Cove Guardians Jac and Ian document the slaughter
9/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
SSCS Cove Guardian Leader Melissa Sehgal interviews for CNN
10/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan; U.S. ambassador to Japan Caroline Kennedy has expressed deep concern over the traditional dolphin hunt. Local fisherman corral dolphins in a secluded bay before killing many for meat
11/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The selection process of dolphins, during the annual dolphin hunt in Taiji. With 250 dolphins, this was the largest round-up in years
12/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The agitated dolphins in the cove during the selection process. According to Sea Shepherd, Japanese fisherman rounded up more than 250 dolphins, including babies and juveniles
13/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
Japanese fisherman are shown in the cove. Taiji town claims the hunt is an important ritual dating back centuries
14/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
A rare albino calf swims close to his/her mother as the pod was herded into the cove. Dolphins captured in the cove are either sold into captivity, or slaughtered and sold for consumption, despite pleas from animal conservationists around the world against the event
15/15 The annual dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan
The process of selecting dolphins during the annual cull, which the mayor of the town defends 'on scientific grounds'
The footage showed the water in the bay where the dolphins are slaughtered turning red with blood, as they are dispatched by fishermen. The dolphins used to have their throats cut, but this method was banned in favour of the metal rod technique, which is thought to be more humane.
Some of the dolphins are sold to aquariums, but many are eaten, despite possible health risks due to the small amounts of mercury present in the dolphin meat.
Protesters and environmental campaigners visit the town every year, and authorities have recently increased their presence during the hunts, to discourage any potential confrontation between the locals and the demonstrators.
Those who participate in and defend the hunt point to the tradition, and the fact that the dolphins are not endangered.One of the protesters included Ric O'Barry, an animal trainer who trained dolphins for the Flipper TV series in the 1960s.
He was released from police custody, after he was detained for not carrying his passport, which is against the law for foreign visitors to Japan.
O'Barry, 75, appeared in The Cove, and after his time working on Flipper had a change of heart, and now is a vocal campaigner against the capture and killing of dolphins.In a separate hunting development in Japan, fisheries officials announced that they would start the annual coastal whale hunt, and plan to capture 51 minke whales over the next two months.
Like many of the dolphins killed in Taiji, the minke whale is not endangered, but many activists are opposed to the use of explosive harpoons in the hunts, which can sometimes result in the whales taking hours to die when they are shot by inexperienced gunmen.
Commercial whaling is banned, but Japan claim that their killing of whales is for scientific research, thus skirting the ban.Reuse content