A video capturing the final moments of a dolphin before it dies in Taiji Cove during Japan's controversial mass slaughter of the animal has been released by conservationists.
Each year the controversial dolphin hunting season sees fishermen on boats herd dolphins into the narrow cove in Taiji where they are killed by having a metal rod driven into their necks.
The best looking dolphins are separated and sold to aquariums.
In the video, Ric O’Barry - founder of The Dolphin Project and star of the 2009 Oscar-winning documentary The Cove - shows a panicked family of Risso’s dolphins swimming around in a sea pen, having been herded into the cove from deeper waters.
Their stress is evident as some of the dolphins tangle themselves up in the netted walls. Others attempt to swim beneath the nets but end up on the side closest to the shore instead of escaping into the open ocean.
One animal beaches itself on the rocky shore at O’Barry’s feet, rolling on its back as it tries to escape.
O’Barry can do nothing to help: "I will be arrested immediately," he says. "The police are all over the place."
Activists risk lengthy prison sentences if they interfere with the hunt.
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'
"This is anguish," O'Barry says, crouching down near the dolphin. "[He's] panic-stricken on the rocks, and I am heartbroken that I can't get in the water and help him away from ... he's tearing his skin up. This is awful."
Eventually, a boat of fishermen slowly makes its way over to the stricken animal. When they arrive, they grab the dolphin by its fin, pushing it out into the water.
“The dolphin’s not going to make it. He’s given up,” O’Barry says.
Moments later, the dolphin sinks to the bottom of the cove.
O’Barry was shaken by the incident: "It breaks my heart," he says. "This is so stressful. This is so difficult to witness. I almost got in the water. I almost got in the water and maybe I should have."
"I guess I blew it," he adds solemnly, before turning the camera off.
The annual hunt has taken place since 1969 but was thrust into the public eye after footage from O’Barry’s 2009 documentary The Cove showed the water in the bay turning red with blood as the dolphins were slaughtered.
While commercial whaling is banned, Japan claims its killing of the whales is for scientific research.Reuse content