The controversial dolphin hunting season on Japan's north-west island of Taiji has started, according to officials.
Confirming that 1 September marks the start of the season, authorities added that poor weather had delayed the killings.
While the dolphins will be hunted for six months, the hunt for small pilot whales – a type of small dolphin - will continue until April.
During the notoriously brutal hunts, fishermen on boats surround pods of migrating dolphins, lower metal poles into the sea and bang them to frighten the animals and disrupt their sonar abilities.
The dolphins are then herded into the narrow cove in Taiji, where the fishermen attack them with knives, before dragging them to a harbour-side warehouse for slaughter. The best-looking dolphins are separated and sold to aquariums.
Warning some viewers may find these images distressing
Video: Japanese dolphin hunt in January
Supporters of the practice claim that dolphin and whales have been hunted and eaten in the area for centuries, and some local fishermen say the cull is necessary to keep dolphins from eating too many fish.
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'
But animal rights activists in Japan, including those who staged protests against the start of the hunting season on Monday, claim the hunts are not traditional, the International Business Times reported.
Protesters from across the world also lent their voices to the cause, using #JapanDolpinDay and #JDD2014 on social media websites.
“[The hunts] exist only for making big profits for the fishermen and the companies that buy live dolphins for their facilities,” the NGO Save Japan Dolphins said, the website reported.
“The hunts began in 1969, and several other Japanese towns (Iki Island and Futo) have given up their drive hunts. There is no excuse for Taiji to claim that opponents are against their 'food culture' or 'ancient traditions'.”
Last year, 850 dolphins were killed in last year’s hunts, and over 150 were taken to live in captivity, according to charity Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), which campaigns, lobbies and advises on protecting the creatures.
The deadly practice sparked international outrage in 2009 following the release of 2009 The Cove.
The documentary claims that more than 20,000 dolphins and porpoises are killed every year in Japan.
Earlier this year, Japan’s top government spokesman Yoshihide Suga, defended the controversial cull as “lawful”, following unusual criticism from the usually close US ambassador to Japan.