JAPAN Dolphin hunting resumes in Taiji where the sea turns red

Kyodo  Newscom
Fishermen drive dolphins into a cove off Taiji Japan Sept. 2 2019

Kyodo Newscom Fishermen drive dolphins into a cove off Taiji Japan Sept. 2 2019

Japan's annual dolphin hunt, which sees them slaughtered in shallow waters, has started in the small coastal town of Taiji.

According to Japanese media, 12 boats left the shore at 5am but returned empty handed later in the day.

The method used - fishermen herd the dolphins and small whales into a cove before sealing the area with a net - has received sharp criticism from animal rights groups.

Court hearings in Japan on revoking Taiji's government permits for dolphin hunting began in May after two plaintiffs, marine activist Ren Yabuki and a local activist, argued that while dolphins are protected under Japanese animal welfare laws, they are subjected to "extreme acts of cruelty" in the hunt.

However, according to Dolphin Project, since the documentary, the practice of dolphin killing has now changed to be less visually dramatic - but also arguably less humane - slaughter.

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As an IWC member, Japan halted commercial whaling in 1988 but continued to hunt whales for what it called research purposes - a practice criticized internationally as a cover for commercial whaling. The global community, however, has criticised the practice and called it cruel as metal rods are stabbed into the back of the dolphin's neck and they bleed and suffocate to death, which can take up to 30 minutes.

Yet the fisherman from Taiji say the community's livelihood is dependent on the trade.

The dolphin hunting season is expected to last for about six month.

Demand for dolphin and whale meat has been on the decline over the past years and both have been found to have unhealthy levels of mercury.

Japan had pulled out of International Whaling Commission in December past year as it chose to resume commercial whaling. It was their second expedition from the area after operating for around one week following the restart of Japan's commercial whaling on July 1, upon the country's withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission. Last September, the IWC annual meeting rejected Japan's latest proposal to resume commercial whaling.

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