The star of an Oscar-winning documentary that shows how dolphins are hunted and slaughtered in Japan was deported to the United States after Tokyo airport officials held him for more than two weeks.

American Ric O'Barry said on Friday he was determined to come back and keep fighting to save the dolphins by working with Japanese people.

"The work will continue," he told the Associated Press news agency from aboard his plane. "Taking me out of the picture won't stop it."

Japan's government rejected an appeal of the decision by immigration officials to deny O'Barry entry, according to his lawyer, Takashi Takano.

WATCH: The Dolphin Hunters

O'Barry, 76, had been held in a detention facility at Tokyo's Narita airport since he landed on January 18. He and his lawyer said officials accused him of lying during his past visits to Japan. He denied that and said he was a tourist who came for dolphin watching.

'Tsunami of attention'

O'Barry starred in The Cove, which won the 2009 Academy Award for best documentary. In it, dolphins are herded by fishermen into a cove in Taiji, Japan, and speared to death, turning the waters red with blood.

Officials and fishermen in Taiji have defended the hunt as traditional, saying eating dolphin meat is no different from eating beef or chicken.

As the dolphin trainer for the Flipper TV series, O'Barry has long felt responsible for dolphin shows and aquariums. He regularly visited Taiji.

"They are trying to shut me up. But they are creating a tsunami of attention for this issue," he said earlier this week from the detention facility. "It breaks my heart to be deported. I never violated Japanese law. I never lied to Japanese authorities."

Immigration officials said they don't comment on individual cases.

O'Barry heads the group Dolphin Project, which aims to peacefully protect dolphins worldwide.

He is working with the Japanese in communities that have previously relied on dolphin hunts to help them to switch to new types of businesses, such as scuba diving and dolphin watching.

 101 East - The Dolphin Hunters

Source: AP