WAKAYAMA – The annual dolphin hunt began in the whaling town of Taiji on Friday, but an approaching typhoon forced the controversial hunt to be called off on the first day without any animals caught.
The traditional “drive-hunting” hunting method, in which fishermen herd dolphins and small whales into a cove before sealing the opening with a net, has drawn fire from animal rights groups. But there was no obstruction Friday even though an unidentified pair of people likely linked to an anti-whaling group was seen filming the departing fishing boats.
Twelve boats left port in the Wakayama Prefecture town early in the morning, but all returned due to high waves caused by Typhoon Sanvu.
Police deployed officers in and around the town to prevent activists from obstructing the hunt after setting up an ad hoc police box near the fishing port. The Japan Coast Guard also sent personnel to the area.
Speaking to reporters before the boats departed, Mitsunori Kobata, head of the local fisheries cooperative to which the boats belong, expressed hope for “another good fishing season.”
The drive-hunt continues through next spring with a limit on total catches.
Despite criticism about the technique, which rights activists say is cruel and which was highlighted in “The Cove,” an Oscar-winning documentary filmed in 2009, hunting dolphins and other small cetaceans in waters near Taiji is not subject to controls by the International Whaling Commission.