TAIJI (Japan) - DOLPHIN activist Ric O'Barry, the central figure in the Oscar-winning eco-documentary The Cove, on Tuesday boycotted a meeting with Japan's dolphin-hunting town of Taiji, labelling it a 'sham'.

O'Barry, a former dolphin trainer for 1960s TV show Flipper, on Tuesday appeared in front of a public hall where the meeting was supposed to take place with Taiji Mayor Kazutaka Sangen and environmental activists.

But O'Barry, now an activist with the Earth Island Institute, abruptly left without meeting participants, claiming that organisers broke promises to allow him to have a 'frank dialogue' by imposing restrictions on media coverage.

'This conference has turned out to be a total sham,' O'Barry said in a statement. 'I will not take part in it in any way. I will boycott this whole disgraceful set-up.'

Every year fishermen in Taiji herd about 2,000 dolphins into a secluded bay, select several dozen for sale to aquariums and marine parks and slaughter the rest for meat, a practice long deplored by animal rights campaigners.
Japanese fishermen, who also hunt whales, have defended killing the sea mammals as part of a centuries-old tradition in the island nation.

Cove activist boycotts meeting