TOKYO (AFP) - Fishermen and divers caught at least 25 dolphins in a controversial Japanese fishing village on Saturday, according to environmentalists, who said the process was captive selection ahead of a mass slaughter.
Activists from the militant environmental group Sea Shepherd streamed live footage of the dolphin capture in the village of Taiji, which drew worldwide attention in 2010 when it became the subject of the Academy Award-winning documentary The Cove, a hard-hitting film about the annual dolphin hunt.
Every year the fishermen of Taiji corral hundreds of dolphins into a secluded bay, select a few dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks, and stab the rest to death for meat.
The town's fishermen defend the hunt as a cultural tradition, and The Cove was met by protests from right-wing activists when it was screened in Japan in 2010.
Sea Shepherd said on Saturday that at least 25 dolphins were taken away from their pods for possible sale to aquariums, and that the selection is likely to continue on Sunday.
"Those taken captive are forced to watch as the remaining members of their family are brutally killed for human consumption," the environmentalist group said in a statement.
The slaughter had not begun by the time the selection process ended on Saturday afternoon, and it was unclear when it would.
The Taiji Fisheries Cooperative Association, which is in charge of the dolphin hunt, was not immediately available for comment.