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Massive Annual Dolphin Slaughter Starts Once Again

<p><a href="https://www.facebook.com/SeaShepherdCoveGuardiansOfficialPage/photos/pb.109164785900427.-2207520000.1441107678./454448874705348/?type=3&theater" target="_blank">Facebook/Sea Shepherd Cove Guardians Page (official)</a></p>

Starting Tuesday, the infamous dolphin hunt in Taiji, Japan, kicks off its annual slaughter of hundreds of dolphins and whales.

The Taiji hunt - which lasts for six months and will kill or capture up to a quota of 1,873 animals this season alone - causes outrage from animal advocates every year. Since 2010, the conservation organization Sea Shepherd has sent "Cove Guardians" to the cove where the hunt occurs to document the hunt and put pressure on Japan to end the practice.

"[W]e will continue to document and live stream from the cove to expose this senseless massacre that claims entire pods of dolphins and small whales. The work of our Cove Guardians has brought these atrocities to the eyes of the world – and the world has spoken up and said these wild, migrating cetaceans are not Japan's for the taking," said Sea Shepherd campaign coordinator David Hance in a press release.

This year, Sea Shepherd will focus its campaign on the role of marine amusement parks in the hunt. "The aquariums, marine parks and other facilities around the world that hold cetaceans captive have blood on their hands," Hance said. "Sea Shepherd believes that ending the global demand for captive dolphins and whales will ultimately bring an end to Taiji's drive hunt."

The cove in Taiji where the hunt happens each year. (Shutterstock)

In a press release provided to The Dodo, Sea Shepherd describes what happens in the cove each year:

For six months of each year, entire family units, or pods, of dolphins and small whales are driven into the cove. Banger poles are struck against the side of the hunting boats to create a "wall of sound," disorienting the sound-sensitive marine mammals and making it nearly impossible for them to escape the drive. The members of these frightened pods will face either imprisonment in captivity or brutal slaughter before the eyes of their families. Killers and trainers work side-by-side to select the "prettiest" dolphins and whales for captivity, those without visible scars. The others are mercilessly stabbed with a metal spike inserted into their backs, just behind the blowhole, to sever their spine.

In a win for marine mammals earlier this year, the Japanese Association of Zoos and Aquariums (JAZA) announced that its member facilities would no longer purchase dolphins caught in Taiji. Selling surviving captured dolphins into captivity, which can bring in over $100,000 per animal, in addition to selling slaughtered dolphins for their meat, is a major motivation for the hunt.

In days leading up to the start of the 2015 season, animal activists encountered obstacles in their efforts to get to Taiji. Ric O'Barry, founder and director of the Dolphin Project, who has traveled to Taiji for the past 13 seasons to condemn the hunt, was arrested in a nearby town and is currently being held by Shingu police. Two activists from Sea Shepherd were denied entry into Japan and deported.

According to a Cove Guardian named Mary, who did manage to make it through immigration and is on the ground in Taiji now, waiting to document this year's hunt, "There are already over 100 orders for captured dolphins."

"Do not support SeaWorld, dolphin parks, swim with dolphin adventures," Mary says in a video posted to Facebook. "This money fuels this atrocity. If we do not support these parks, this atrocity cannot continue."