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Ambassador Caroline Kennedy 'concerned by inhumaneness' of Japan dolphin hunt

Adrian Mylne / Reuters

Fishermen hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji, western Japan, on Monday. The annual dolphin hunt has long been a source of controversy.

TOKYO -- Caroline Kennedy has expressed her deep concern at the "inhumaneness" of an annual dolphin hunt carried out by fisherman in Japan, where she serves as U.S. ambassador.

Long a source of controversy,  fisherman from Taiji drive hundreds of dolphins into a secluded bay where they select some for sale to marine parks, release some back into the sea and kill the rest for meat.

"Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing," Kennedy tweeted on Saturday, adding that the U.S. government opposes drive hunt fisheries.

More than 250 bottlenose dolphins have been rounded up this year, according to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The hunt became infamous after the 2009 release of "The Cove," an Oscar-winning documentary that was directed by former National Geographic photographer Louis Psihoyos.

The film followed eco-activists who struggle with Japanese police and fishermen to gain access to the location of the hunt.

The movie met with fierce opposition in Japan from groups saying it was "anti-Japanese" and an affront to traditional culture. 

Japan has long maintained that killing dolphins is not banned under any international treaty and that the animals are not endangered, adding that dolphins need to be culled to protect fishing grounds.

Defending the practice, local officials that they were conducting a legal and traditional fishing practice while at the same time adhering to the regulations and the quotas established by the Japanese government. 

Reuters contributed to this report. Henry Austin reported from London.