They already have. The conduct of ships at sea is governed by a large body of international law as well as the admiralty laws of individual nations. There are various organizations that actively seek to obstruct whaling vessels in their normal duties, and some are more aggressive than others. The recent (February 2010) confrontation between the Bob Barker and Japanese whaling ships seems to have escalated the conflict, where water cannons have been used; arguably under existing law the tactics used by activists can be characterized as piracy, especially if the whalers are operating legally (which, in this incident, the Japanese were–Japan has a narrow exemption under the 1986 worldwide whaling ban). The problem is enforcement. Obviously no one wants to see a whaler/activist confrontation escalate to violence, but it is doubtful that more laws, or laws specific to the whaling issue as opposed to conduct at sea generally, will alone prevent them. Policing the seas is a difficult, expensive and dangerous business, as the extreme amount of piracy on the world’s oceans attests. Realistically the only way to prevent whaler/activist confrontations is for a nation to give its whaling vessels a naval escort, which seems a bit excessive and isn’t likely to happen anyway. How this problem is to be resolved, or if it can be resolved at all, is unclear to me.
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