A fisherman has been filmed holding a baby dolphin underwater in Japan's notorious "Red Cove", before dragging it under a tarpaulin to be killed for its meat.
The scene was filmed in Taiji, a small coastal town in Wakayama Prefecture, in mid-September and shared early October; a month after the annual dolphin hunt began.
Ren Yabuki, Director of Life Investigation Agency (LIA), a not-for-profit organisation, witnessed the Risso's dolphin calf's death.
He estimated the animal was about three months old.
READ MORE: EXCLUSIVE: World-first legal challenge launched against Japan's controversial dolphin hunt
Mr Yabuki told 9news.com.au the act he filmed still haunts him.
"I feel so sad about seeing the baby dolphin killed," Mr Yabuki said.
"My blood ran backwards.
"The baby dolphins appeared to be drowning and weakening. However, I don't know (how they were killed) because it was actually done under a grey sheet.
"There was no reason the babies are killed more than the bigger dolphins."
Mr Yabuki claims to have seen multiple calves killed.
In total he said it equates to 32 juveniles killed in two years.
He said as dolphins don't bear young every year, entire pods are often seen trying to protect calves during the drive hunts.
"The older dolphins try and protect the young," he said.
"All of the dolphins surround the younger dolphin - so all of the animals are going to be killed."
While he didn't witness the act of killing as it occurred under a tarp, Mr Yabuki said it's likely the dolphin he filmed died by a method called "pithing".
This involves the insertion of a metal rod into the animal's body to severe the spinal cord.
Fisherman often have to make repeated attempts to severe the cord, which is done while the animal is still alive.
Heather Hill who volunteers for not-for-profit Dolphin Project as a Cove Monitor told 9news.com.au it's impossible to ensure the animals are killed quickly, even though the Japanese Government maintains it's humane.
"The Japanese government claims this causes an instant death and argues it to be humane, although extremely precise accuracy would be required to ensure a quick death," Ms Hill said.
"This cannot be assured in such conditions."
Dolphin Project helped supply LIA with footage when Mr Yabuki launched a joint legal challenge with Australian not-for-profit Action for Dolphins against the hunt early last year.
The charities argued the hunt is inhumane under Japan's own animal cruelty laws.
The case was later dismissed by a judge.
Over 1500 dolphins destined for slaughter each year
The Taiji dolphin hunts runs from September 1 to February 28.
The controversial hunt was the subject of the 2009 documentary The Cove, which depicted fishermen's drive hunting method of herding the animals into enclosed pens before slaughter as cruel.
Dolphins captured during the drives are either killed for their meat or captured for live trade.
Each year the government sets a quota for how many animals can be slaughtered.
This year the number sits at 1,749.
Nine species of dolphins will be targeted. These include; bottlenose dolphins, striped dolphins, Risso's dolphins, pantropical spotted dolphins, pacific white-sided dolphins, short-finned pilot whales, false killer whales, rough-toothed dolphins and melon-headed whales.
Dolphin Project claims there have been six "Red Cove" days - days when the ocean runs red with blood - since the 2020 season began.
9news.com.au reached out to The Fisheries Agency of Japan's "Whaling Affairs Office".
They responded with the following statement;
"Japan's basic policy is the 'sustainable use of aquatic living resources including cetaceans based on scientific evidence,'" it read.
"The Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) is responsible for the management of cetaceans and has conducted a series of scientific researches on cetaceans. Based on the results obtained from those researches, it calculates and sets catch quotas for dolphin fisheries species by species every year.
"The FAJ has closely collaborated with relevant prefectural governments for the management of dolphin fisheries, and the dolphin fisheries in Taiji has been properly done so with the Wakayama prefectural government."
Contact Raffaella at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Source: 9News https://www.9news.com.au/world/taiji-dolphin-hunt-japanese-fisherman-filmed-holding-baby-dolphin-underwater-before-killing/a64adec6-f2ea-4d24-a024-a3c4c92ce701