The annual culling of hundreds of bottlenose dolphins in a secluded cove in Japan has begun.

The fishermen surround pods of dolphins, banging metal poles in the water to confuse the animals and disrupt their sonar. The animals are then herded into shallow water and left for several days before being led into a the cove where some are slaughtered for meat and others are captured and sold to marine parks.

Japanese officials defend the cull, pointing out it is not illegal to hunt bottlenose dolphins and they are not an endangered species. They also argue the lawful way they hunt the dolphins is no different from any other slaughtering of animals for their meat.

Members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), who monitor the culling in the coastal town of Taiji, said 176 marine mammals had been killed this season before this latest cull.

The 2009 Oscar-nominated documentary The Cove brought the issue of the Taiji hunt to a worldwide audience.