TORONTO — “The Cove,” Louie Psihoyos’ exposé of the Japanese dolphin slaughter, nabbed the Hot Docs’ audience award Monday.

The pic, which also won the Sundance aud award, is set for limited U.S. theatrical release July 31.

Hot Docs, the annual non-fiction fest, confab and mart, wrapped Sunday, with aud numbers estimated at 122,000 — a whopping 42% increase over 2008. More than 170 pics unspooled at 266 public screenings.

“Our guest filmmakers consistently rave about what great audiences we have in Toronto, and we are thrilled that record numbers turned out to see their great films,” said Hot Docs exec director Chris McDonald.

Hot Docs 2009 top 10 determined by aud votes:

1. The Cove (Louie Psihoyos, U.S.)

2. 65 Redroses (Philip Lyall, Nimisha Mukerji, Canada)

3. Inside Hana’s Suitcase (Larry Weinstein, Canada, Czech Republic)

4. Best Worst Movie (Michael Paul Stephenson, U.S.)

5. A Hard Name (Alan Zweig, Canada)

6. Over the Hills and Far Away (Michel Orion Scott, U.S.)

7. Winnebago Man (Ben Steinbauer, U.S.)

8. Burma VJ (Anders Hogsbro Ostergaard, Denmark)

9. Rough Aunties (Kim Longinotto, U.K.)

10. Prom Night in Mississippi (Paul Saltzman, Canada)