A Japanese government spokesman defended an annual dolphin hunt Monday, after US Ambassador Caroline Kennedy tweeted that she was deeply concerned by the inhumanity of the practice.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference that dolphin fishing in Japan is carried out appropriately in accordance with the law.

Fishermen in wetsuits hunt dolphins at a cove in Taiji. Picture: Reuters

“Dolphin fishing is a form of traditional fishing in our country,” he said, responding to a question about Kennedy's criticism. “We will explain Japan's position to the American side.”

Kennedy tweeted on Saturday, “Deeply concerned by inhumaneness of drive hunt dolphin killing.”

She added that the US Government opposes such fishing.

The Japanese widow of John Lennon on Monday added her voice to pleas to dolphin fishermen that they stop their hunt, days after the US ambassador to Tokyo waded into the row.

Yoko Ono published an open letter to the men of Taiji, in which she urged them to halt the cull for the "future of Japan".

Drive hunt refers to the practice of herding the dolphins into a cove, where they are trapped and later killed.

The hunt in the fishing village of Taiji in western Japan has come under international criticism and was the subject of the Academy Award-winning 2009 film The Cove.

The fishermen in Taiji say the hunt is part of their village tradition and call foreign critics who eat other kinds of meat hypocritical.

Dolphins are killed at the cove. File picture: Steve Ferrier/The West Australian

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