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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Fishermen at the Japanese town made famous by the controversial Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" shrugged off protests by animal rights activists on Tuesday to carry out their grisly annual dolphin hunt.
Japanese broadcaster TBS said the first hunt of the season in the town of Taiji took place on Tuesday, without mentioning how many dolphins were involved.
But Sea Shepherd, one of several animal rights groups that have been monitoring fishermen in Taiji since the season began in September, said in a report dated October 11 on its website that they witnessed the second killing of dolphins this season on Tuesday.
They said 14 dolphins were killed, while another six -- mothers and calves -- were spared, at least temporarily.
"Mama dolphin, baby dolphin. No," chanted several Western activists shown by TBS standing near the ocean.
TBS also showed one activist, identified on the Sea Shepherd website as Steve Thompson of the Taiji Dolphin Action Group, raising his voice to fishermen about to leave for the hunt at 5 in the morning.
"Today. No fishing. There is baby dolphin, pregnant dolphin. If you take them, that is wrong," said Thompson in broken Japanese before being led away by police, who TBS said were there to prevent the protests from turning violent.
Taiji shot to global infamy after the release of The Cove, which was directed by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos and follows eco-activists who struggle with Japanese police and fishermen to gain access to the secluded cove where the hunt takes place.
The movie has met with fierce opposition in Japan from groups who say it is "anti-Japanese" and an affront to traditional culture. Its Japanese opening in July was greeted with shouting protests from flag-waving demonstrators and a scuffle.
Japan has long maintained that killing and eating whale is a cherished culinary tradition, and conducts annual hunts under the name of research whaling.
It says that killing dolphins is not banned under any international treaty and that the animals are not endangered, adding that dolphins need to be culled to protect fishing grounds.
Editing by Elaine Lies and Steve Addison