Pilot whale hunt extended in Japan town from Oscar film

Fri May 6, 2011 5:41am EDT
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By Elaine Lies

TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - The season for hunting pilot whales in a Japanese town made famous by the controversial Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" has been extended for a month, partly because of a devastating tsunami in March.

Taiji, on the Pacific coast in southwestern Japan, shot to global infamy after the release of the movie, which featured eco-activists who struggle with police and fishermen to gain access to the town's secluded cove where the grisly hunt takes place.

"The pilot whale hunt has been extended to May 31, since fishermen were unable to catch many during the usual September to April season," said an official of the Wakayama prefecture government, which granted the extension.

Pilot whales are a member of the dolphin family but are bigger than some of the better-known dolphins, such as bottlenose dolphins.

In Taiji, they are hunted both by ship and by being driven into a cove, trapped with nets and killed. The slaughter featured in "The Cove," which won an Academy Award last year.

The hunt was poor this year partly because a major ocean current, the Kuroshio, did not approach as close to Japan as usual, keeping the pilot whales away, the official said.

The extension was also granted because a small whaling vessel from Wakayama, which is usually used in the hunt, had to go to northern waters to help with a research program because the boat that usually does it was damaged in the March 11 tsunami.

A 9.0 magnitude quake triggered huge tsunami waves that crashed into Japan's northeast coast. The official death toll is 14,800 with about 11,000 people missing.   Continued...

<p>A captured short-finned pilot whale is measured by fishery workers including Fisheries Agency employees at Taiji Port in Japan's oldest whaling village of Taiji, 420 km (260 miles) southwest of Tokyo, June 4, 2008. REUTERS/Issei Kato</p>