TOKYO - Fishermen in Japan's dolphin-hunting town of Taiji have extended their catch season by one month and last week caught some 60 long-finned pilot whales, a local official said Friday.
Every year the town's fishermen corral about 2,000 dolphins into a secluded bay, select a few dozen for sale to aquariums and slaughter the rest for meat, a practice long deplored by animal rights campaigners.
The picturesque town in Wakayama prefecture, western Japan, drew global attention after "The Cove", a hard-hitting film about the annual hunts, won the Academy Award for best documentary in 2010.
This catch season began in September and was due to end in April. "But we resumed the hunt after the Wakayama government extended its permission by one month until the end of May following a poor catch this year," a Taiji Fisheries Cooperative official told AFP by telephone.
Some 60 long-finned pilot whales, an oceanic dolphin species, were caught on Wednesday and auctioned off Thursday, said the official.
Animal rights activist Scott West of the group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society reported on the catch in a blog post.
"The pilot whales in the Cove did not quietly go to their deaths," he wrote, describing how more than 20 of the animals were killed. "They fought as best they could, churning up the water and dashing on the rocks."
Meanwhile, Taiji fishermen gave up whale hunts in nearby waters this year and instead sent their whaling vessel to Kushiro, Hokkaido, replacing a whaling ship from another port that was destroyed in the March 11 tsunami.
Japan hunts whales under a loophole to a global moratorium that allows killing the sea mammals for what it calls "scientific research", although the meat is later sold openly in shops and restaurants.
In late April, Japanese whalers launched their annual coastal hunt in Kushiro with five crew from the tsunami-devastated whaling town of Ayukawa joining their first voyage since the massive quake and tsunami struck.
Image: takato marui / via Flickr