This is the sickening moment a fisherman holds a dolphin calf underwater before killing it as part of an annual hunting season.
Shocking video taken by onlookers in the coastal town of Taiji captures a fishing boat herding the dolphins into a cove where most are slaughtered for their meat with knives in shallow waters.
A wetsuit-clad man is seen going after a baby dolphin and trying to separate it from the others before holding it underwater.
It is believed that the fisherman then dragged it to a net where the hunters pushed a sharp metal spike into the dolphins' neck just behind the blowhole in order to sever the spinal cord.
The dolphin in the footage is believed to be around a three-month-old Risso's dolphin calf.
The incident happened in September and the footage has just been circulated on social media this month.
Life Investigation Agency (LIA) director Ren Yabuki watched the Risso’s dolphin calf die and said it was one of 32 juvenile dolphins killed as part of the slaughter in the last two years.
He told 9NEWS: "There was no reason the babies were killed more than the bigger dolphins.
"Dolphin pods would often try to protect the smaller calves, sometimes leading to the death of entire pods."
The dolphin hunting season usually lasts about six months and is authorised by the Japan Fisheries Agency and regulated by an annual quota for certain species.
The Japanese government claimed that the dolphins are killed in a humane manner but a spokeswoman for non-profit dolphin watch group Dolphin Project claimed this is not the case.
Heather Hill told the site: "The Japanese government claims this causes instant death and argues it to be humane, although extremely precise accuracy would be required to ensure a quick death.
"This cannot be assured in such conditions."
The government has set a quota of up to 1,749 dolphins to be slaughtered throughout the hunting season and others are captured for live trade.
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