Bottlenose dolphins huddle together at a net as they are taken captive after a superpod of the mammals was driven into a cove in the Japanese town of Taiji for slaughter or capture. Photo: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
More than 40 bottlenose dolphins were killed during an annual hunt in Japan, the conservation group Sea Shepherd said, four days after US ambassador Caroline Kennedy criticised the slaughter.
A total of 93 animals were taken from the ocean in the past six days by hunters in the coastal town of Taiji, and 41 of them were killed yesterday, Sea Shepherd activists known as the Cove Guardians said on an official Facebook page.
Kennedy, who took up the post of ambassador to Japan in November, and singer Yoko Ono Lennon are among those who have spoken out against this year's hunt.
Environmental groups decry the annual dolphin slaughter, depicted in 2009's Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, as inhumane, while Japan defends it as a cultural tradition.
"Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive-hunt dolphin killing," Kennedy said in a post on Twitter on January 18, referring to the method by which the animals are herded into a cove before being killed.
The US government opposes drive-hunt fisheries, she said.
"It's sensible to respect the position of others," Wakayama prefecture governor Yoshinobu Nisaka told reporters yesterday. "It's a little illogical to speak about abuse just because dolphins are being killed."
More than 130 dolphins herded into the cove this year were driven back out to sea, Sea Shepherd said.
Many of them won't survive due to injuries, according to the group.
Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga on January 20 called dolphins "important marine resources" that should be used sustainably.
"Hunting dolphins is one of our country's traditional forms of fishing, and it is carried out appropriately in accordance with regulations," Suga said.