WAKAYAMA – Fishing boats in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, set sail for the first dolphin drive hunt of the season Thursday morning, as some 15 foreign activists staged protests around the town’s harbor facility.
The hunt, which was delayed for two days due to bad weather, saw 12 boats leave the port shortly after 5 a.m. and search for dolphins in waters up to 40 kilometers off the coast, local fishery cooperative officials said.
The boats found a pod of grampus dolphins but were unable to drive them shoreward and returned to the harbor by around 10:30 a.m., they said.
Among the protesters was American pro-dolphin activist Ric O’Barry, who featured in the Oscar-winning 2009 documentary film “The Cove” about the town’s controversial dolphin hunt. He was arrested Monday in a nearby town for failing to carry his passport, but later released.
In the drive hunt, which has been criticized as cruel, fishing boats drive dolphins and other small cetaceans into a bay where they are caught or slaughtered.
The Wakayama Prefectural Government allows Taiji fishermen to employ this method during the September-April season to catch a quota of dolphin set by the Fisheries Agency.
In the previous season, they caught 937 dolphins against a quota of 1,971. The current season’s quota is set at 1,873.
In May, the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums banned its members from obtaining any dolphins caught through this method, after the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums temporarily suspended its membership.