• Kyodo

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Taiji fishermen caught the first dolphins Thursday in their annual hunt, which kicked off the previous day.

The annual hunt for dolphins, whales and other cetaceans off the Wakayama Prefecture whaling town involved a fleet of six boats, which left the port at around 5:30 a.m.

The boats spotted a pod of some 20 bottlenose dolphins and herded them into a net set up in a bay in the area.

The whalers will continue their hunt through next spring based on a catch limit set by the government, as cetacean hunting at Taiji is not subject to controls by the International Whaling Commission.

No marked protest action against the hunting was staged in the town, which was the site of the Oscar-winning 2009 U.S. documentary “The Cove,” which took up the dolphin hunt and was shown in Japan earlier this year.

In Tokyo, Richard O’Barry, an activist working to free dolphins from captivity who appeared in “The Cove,” visited the U.S. Embassy on Thursday and asked it to urge Japan to halt the hunt. O’Barry handed to the embassy a set of signatures collected on the Internet from about 1.7 million people in 151 countries calling for a halt to dolphin hunting. He said dolphin hunting cannot be construed as culture.

O’Barry is in Japan with about 60 of his supporters to protest Taiji’s dolphin hunt.

“The Cove,” directed by Louie Psihoyos, critically depicts the dolphin hunt in Taiji.

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