Japan dolphin town defends hunt as film debuts

Wed Oct 21, 2009 8:28am EDT
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TOKYO (Reuters Life!) - Residents of a Japanese town defended their annual dolphin hunt on Wednesday as a U.S. documentary film showing the event premiered at a Tokyo film festival to a sell-out audience.

"The Cove," which opened in the United States in July, follows a team of activists, including former dolphin trainer from the "Flipper" television series Ric O'Barry.

They battle Japanese police and fisherman to gain access to a hidden cove in Taiji, southern Japan, where barbed wire blocks people from filming dolphin killings that begin in September each year.

Taiji mayor Kazuzaka Sangen, who was among more than 150 people who saw the film at the Tokyo International Film Festival, was skeptical about whether it would change the long tradition of dolphin hunts in his town.

"We have been like this for long time and though I don't know why the film people came to our town, no one will be scared because of this," he told Reuters.

The documentary shows fishermen luring thousands of wild dolphins into the cove, where activists say they are captured for marine amusement parks or slaughtered for food.

Fishermen in Taiji say dolphins need to be culled regularly to protect their fishing grounds.

Taiji residents who saw the film said it misrepresented them.

"It's true that dolphins are being killed in the Japanese sea, but I hope people around the world also know that there are as many people that take care of dolphins every day," said Gou Mihashi, a 37-year-old dolphin trainer from Taiji.   Continued...