Japanese whalers have plans to go whaling again(read here), and both scaremongering nonsense and legitimate concerns have been raised, both oddly enough here at the Greens' FrogBlog.
The legitimate concern is that raised by Whale Watch, as expressed by Conservation Minister Chris Carter, and in my view it's where lies the germ of an answer. Says Chris: "These are our whales too."
Going unerringly if unwittingly to the point of the problem, Minister Carter and the Frog have put their finger on the solution: for Kaikoura Whale Watch to make an ownership claim on "their whales," and thereby protect their whales, depoliticise the question and thus avoid the unedifying prospect of seeing pictures of Jeanette Fitzsimons picketing Japanese supermarkets and surimi lunch-carts.
How to do so? The solution to the imminent and watery Tragedy of the Commons represented by out of control whale-harvesting is similar to the problem solved by nineteenth century cattlemen by the imperfect means of branding, and eventually by the invention of barbed wire. It is one of recognising and legally protecting the property right in these animals..
Branding and barbed wire were inventions that allowed the cattlemen to identify "their cattle" and to ask the law for its protection for them. The solution is the same for those who wish to protect "their whales" -- a technological advance that allows them to identify to themselves and others which whales are theirs, and which therefore have the full protection of law.
Electronic branding? GPS-power 'barbed wire'? I don't know. The cattlemen embraced the new technology of barbed wire to legally protect their herds (read about it here); whale watchers might consider devising a similary moron-proof technology to allow legal protection to be afforded to their migrating 'pods.'
Perhaps Minister Carter, the World Court and the IWC could kick things off by announcing that should such technology be devised and introduced, that full legal protection will be afforded to those like Kaikoura Whale Watch who can make a claim that a common law property right in "their whales" actually exists, a right acquired over years and fully deserving of protection.
As they say, it's a start.