Louie Psihoyos's animal rights documentary The Cove (a film we've been championing since Sundance '09 - read our review here) has been opening eyes stateside and in a handful of overseas markets since opening last summer, but the real question was whether or not the people of Japan would hear about the mass dolphin harvesting that had been going on for years under their noses in the small fishing village of Taiji. According to a press release, Japanese audiences will get their chance to watch The Cove come April 2010, when distributor Medallion Media releases the Oscar nominated film.

In the press release (via The Hot Blog), Medallion Media director Norio Okahara stressed that the company was remaining neutral in the highly political dolphin harvesting debate, but that it was an important issue that deserved attention, so as to let the Japanese public decide for themselves. "In distributing The Cove we are not taking sides. Rather, we are presenting the film for the Japanese to decide for themselves about the issues it raises. There is a debate to be had here and this important film – and the Academy Award® nomination only serves to reinforce its importance - offers the opportunity for such a debate."

The Cove has stirred emotion thus far with its brutal depictions of the mass dolphin killings that occur each year in Taiji, Japan, an insular community that depends so much financially on the sale of dolphins and dolphin meat that its members take intimidating measures to hinder the activist documentarians in the film. But defenders of the practice cite Japanese cultural tradition and differing values as justification to continue their way of life; to them, dolphins are just another food source, and there is no ethical dilemma. So it seems that Psihoyos and Co. will approach the unique challenge of selling The Cove in Japan by taking another tack and playing up another of the film's arguments: that consuming dolphin products is dangerous for your health.

"When we first went to Taiji, dolphin meat was being distributed in the school systems for children's lunches, which is troubling because mercury has the most deleterious effects on small children," Psihoyos said in a statement. "Most disturbing is that much of the dolphin meat, as determined by DNA analysis, was being sold as whale meat. A recent study done by Japanese scientists shows that the residents of Taiji have 10 times the acceptable amount of mercury in their systems. That makes it more then just an animal rights issue - this is a human health concern."

If you haven't yet seen The Cove, which has been endorsed many times over by this site among others, it's currently available on DVD. Tune in Sunday, March 7 to see if it nabs the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature, for which it competes with Burma VJ, Food, Inc., The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, and Which Way Home.