FRANKFURT, Germany (August 6, 2012) — Captain, star of Animal Planet's reality TV series "Whale Wars," can now add international fugitive to his list of accolades.
Watson has skip out of Germany on July 22, while under house arrest, on the day he was to be turned over to the Costa Rican government. Rumors have placed Watson in Ecuador.
The Japanese government has also joined the manhunt with Costa Rica for Watson, who spent more than 70 days on house arrest while waiting for an extradition hearing filed in May by the Costa Rican government.
The Japanese government also claims they have extradition orders for Watson after he allegedly attacked a Japanese whaleboat in 2010. Watson allegedly was unsuccessful in using some kind of laser device, and the Japanese whaleboat rammed the Ady Gil trimaran, sinking it to the bottom of the southern Antartic Sea. Watson was arrested on May 13 while he was en route to Cannes, France. He was arrested as soon as he plane landed in Frankfurt, Germany. The next day Watson posted a $250,000 Euro bail, where he remains under house arrest.
According to the 10-year-old extradition papers presented by the Costa Rican government, it claims that Watson has been charged with violation of ship's traffic, which occurred while filming the documentary "Sharkwater" in the waters off of Guatemala.
While in the sea in Guatemalen waters, the crew of the Ocean Warrior, a Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel, came across an illegal shark-finning operation run by the Varadero I, a vessel registered in Costa Rica, operating within 50 miles of the Guatamalen coastline.
According to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, they were "on orders" by the Guatemalen authorities to halt the illegal operations by the Varadero and to escort the vessel back to a Guatemalen port for prosecution.
While escorting the ship, the Ocean Warrior received word that a Guatemalen gunship was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd and its crew instead.
Feeling double-crossed, Watson ordered that the Ocean Warrior perform evasive measures to avoid the gunship and set a course for Costa Rica. The Costa Rican government gave the Ocean Warrior permission to deliver the Varadero I and its crew to their authorities.
However, when docked, the Ocean Warrior crew discovered a larger illegal shark-finning activity, where they found dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings while entering a port in Costa Rica.
Watson said this could not be ignored, and the Varadero incident came two days before the SSCS was to sign an agreement with the Costa Rican government to work closely with the rangers off the CoCoos Islands, the same way Sea Shepherd works with the rangers and the police of Ecuador in the Galapagos. The capture of the the Costa Rican poachers off Guatemalan waters ended any amicable relationship between SSCS and Costa Rica's government.
After delivering the vessel Varadero I and its crew to Costa Rican authorities without any incidents or injuries, the poachers then complained to the police in Costa Rica that their lives were threatened, and a fisherman accused Watson of attempted murder. Watson was arrested in Costa Rica and prosecuted, but the government dropped all charges against Watson, and allowed him and his crew to leave the country.
However, a second arrest warrant was later filed, but it lapsed before it was mysteriously reactivated last October. In March, 2012, Interpol released a statement in which it said it refused to publish a Red Notice seeking Captain Watson’s arrest because its Office of Legal Affairs was not satisfied the request complied with Interpol’s constitution and rules.
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has maintained that Costa Rica's extradition request is politically motivated. Interpol investigated the charge in the extradition papers, and dismissed it for being politically motivated. However, without any explanation, the extradition order was enforced by German government 10 years later.
Many people from countries worldwide have started petitions and rallies to put pressure on the German government to release Watson.
Eleven-time World Surfing Champion and Sea Shepherd Advisory Board member, Kelly Slater, recently stepped up to the plate to rally international support for Captain Paul Watson in the surfing world.
On Sunday he wrote: “This situation cannot thrive if there is transparency. For example, connections and investments by the Chinese and Taiwanese with Costa Rican for infrastructure investments in Costa Rica, result in Costa Rica turning a blind eye to the shark finning industry and illegal fishing off the coast, all the while Costa Rica promotes ecotourism based upon the country’s biodiversity and natural beauty. If a light is shined on these connections, there ability to pull secret levers of power will evaporate.”
The incident in question was thoroughly documented in the award winning film Sharkwater, released in 2007, which brought world wide media attention to the hideous reality of the corrupt and brutal shark finning industry. A recent clip of the incident was issued by Film Maker Rob Stewart in order to prove Captain Watson’s innocence and be viewed below.
Added Slater: “The situation that we find Captain Watson in, now shines a light on these dark corners. It is literally now a simple choice by government, to overturn and release Captain Watson given that the entire incident where he confronted the illegal poachers was caught on tape. The video establishes the facts, and this calls into question the motives of those continuing to pursue Captain Watson despite those facts. No person or vessel was injured during the melee and Watson was following instructions from Guatemalan government officials while protecting natural resources under the UN protocol. He’s already paid a fine and been released, but someone still has a bone to pick with him somewhere else in the world, and they are wrongly being helped behind closed doors by some murky government power.
In the meantime, the fishermen, according to the conservation society, have indicated they would drop the charges in exchange for $250,000.
"And that, in our book, amounts to extortion," the conservation society said. "A quarter of a million dollars in compensation, for what? For interfering with their illegal activities!"
The arrest and holding of Watson also coincides with the busiest months for illegal harvesting of shark fins. However, it may be backfiring on the poachers who pressured the Costa Rican government into having Watson arrested.
Last month, the Yamauke, a Costa Rican vessel was boarded by its own government's coast guard, where they found 120 shark fins that had been crudely hacked off. The vessel and catch were confiscated.