• Kyodo

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The 53rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in 2001 will be held in London, while Shimonoseki in Yamaguchi Prefecture will host the 2002 meeting, the IWC decided Thursday.

Japan and New Zealand competed to host the 2002 meeting, but in secret balloting, the commission members selected Japan, with 19 votes for Japan, 10 for New Zealand and three abstentions.

IWC Secretary Ray Gambell told reporters that it was the first time that two countries had competed to host an IWC annual meeting.

Japan and New Zealand are on opposite sides of the whaling debate. Japan actively campaigns for the lifting of the moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the IWC in 1982, while New Zealand is among the staunchest supporters of putting an end to whaling within the IWC.

The IWC Secretariat said there had been no offers to host the meeting in 2001 so it made arrangements for it to be held in London, where the headquarters of the IWC Secretariat is located.

Shimonoseki, on the western tip of Honshu, was a base for Japan’s whaling industry until the 1980s. The fisheries company that owned the Taiyo Whales, the predecessor of baseball’s Yokohama BayStars, was based in the city until 1949.

Since 1998, Japan’s research whaling ships gather at Shimonoseki port for a ceremony before leaving for the Pacific Ocean.

The 41-member IWC was established in 1946 after the signing of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.