An upbeat Watson says he’ll work with Costa Rica

Sea Shepherd video clip Paul Watson outside Preungesheim prison Tuesday.

Paul Watson, the fugitive conservationist, has pledged cooperation with Costa Rica.

“I do not want to lose the opportunity of actually being able to work hands on with Costa Rica to do what we are most passionate about – the preservation of the shark and marine species of Cocos Island National Park.” he said in a letter on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Web site.

Watson got out of jail in Germany Tuesday. He had been detained on the strength of a warrant issued by Costa Rica. The normally pugnacious Watson was conciliatory in his statements about Costa Rica, which had issued the warrant.

“We do not want to attack the president or the government of Costa Rica,” said Watson. “We would like to approach the Costa Rican government in a positive manner, not simply to resolve this legal issue but more importantly to find a way to work cooperatively with Costa Rica to end the illegal practice of shark finning and to protect the fragile marine eco-systems surrounding Cocos Island.”

Today is a day that the Sea Shepherd organization and supporters promised to meet between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in front of German embassies and consulates around the world. The pressure is being exerted so that the German justice ministry will void the possible extradition of Watson.

That seems moot now as Watson appears ready to return to Costa Rica as long as his safety can be assured.

“Our task is to convince the government of Germany that conservation is about being active about taking risks and that the environment must be put before politics,” he said. “Therefore, let us focus our energies on May 23rd towards politely appealing to German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger to drop this extradition demand.”

“In return I will make this promise – that I will initiate a cooperative relationship with Costa Rica to protect Cocos Island National Park and the sharks. Costa Rica will have my word on this and the entire world will be on notice that I have made this pledge.”

Watson reflected on his experiences in Costa Rica;

“Ten years ago when this conflict first arose there was a different government and a far stronger shark finning operation. In fact, we felt at the time that the entire affair was orchestrated to prevent Sea Shepherd and the Costa Rican ministry of the environment from working cooperatively to protect the Cocos Island National Park. That, unfortunately, is exactly what occurred, and, whereas, we have spent the last 12 years working in positive cooperation with the rangers of the Galapagos and the Ecuadorian federal police, we have been denied the opportunity to work with the rangers of Cocos and the government of Costa Rica.”

Sea Shepherd spokespersons have said Watson’s arrest and possible extradition were the work of the so-called shark finning mafia, which also wants to kill him. Shark finning is the capture of sharks and the removal of the fins without using the remainder of the carcass. The injured fish usually is dumped back into the water to die.

Costa Rica has clamped down on fishing boats that unload shark fins in Puntarenas. But the fins still are unloaded in Nicaragua and taken by truck to Puntarenas where they are dried and processed.

Watson gave a press conference outside Preungesheim Prison in Frankfurt, Germany, after he was released on bail.

Watson is expected to be in Berlin, Germany, today when President Laura Chinchilla pays a state visit there to government officials.

The warrant stems from a 2002 incident in Guatemalan waters when Watson’s “Ocean Warrior” bumped the side of a Costa Rican fishing boat and sprayed water on the crew. Watson said that the crew was fishing illegally for sharks. The fishing boat owner, captain and crew claim there was physical damage and also damage to the boat.

If that is true, it was not obvious from videos that were taken of the incident and incorporated into the award-winning movie “Sharkwater.”

Watson and Sea Shepherd have pursued the Japanese whaling fleet to the extent that its activities in the Southern Ocean were cut short this year. Japan is believed to be seeking his extradition there to face charges stemming from other confrontations at sea.

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