Japan defends "traditional" dolphin hunt after U.S. criticism

Activist Paul Watson says Japanese fishermen have trapped about 250 bottlenose dolphins in a cove, including a rare albino calf. CBS News

TOKYO -- A Japanese government spokesman defended an annual dolphin hunt Monday, after U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy tweeted that she was deeply concerned by the inhumanity of the practice.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that dolphin fishing in Japan is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law.

 "Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country," he said, responding to a question about Kennedy's criticism. "We will explain Japan's position to the American side."

Kennedy tweeted on Saturday, "Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing." She added that the U.S. government opposes such fishing.

Drive hunt refers to the practice of herding the dolphins into a cove, where they are trapped and later killed.

The hunt in the fishing village of Taiji in western Japan has come under international criticism and was the subject of the Academy Award-winning 2009 film "The Cove."

The fishermen in Taiji say the hunt is part of their village tradition and call foreign critics who eat other kinds of meat hypocritical.

 Paul Watson, founder of the conservation group Sea Shepherd, said some of the mammals will be spared death and instead sold into captivity.

"The dolphins face a violent and stressful captive selection process. Babies and mothers will be torn from each other’s sides as some are taken for captivity, some are killed and others are driven out to sea to fend for themselves," Watson said.

He said perhaps most valuable in this round-up is a rare albino calf.

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