Tico warrant snags Sea Shepherd’s Watson in Germany

Capt. Paul Watson

German officials have detained seagoing environmentalist Paul Watson on a 10-year-old warrant filed by Costa Rica, said the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that Watson heads.

The arrest comes on an apparently bogus charge lodged by fishermen after Watson’s “Ocean Warrior” harassed them in Guatemalan waters because they appear to be fishing for shark illegally.

The incident on which the charge is based was filmed and ended up in the major motion picture Sharkwater.” contradicts the Costa Rican Poder Judicial claims that said Watson’s crewmen used streams of water to cause the Costa Rican crew to lose control and collide with “Ocean Warrior.” The allegation also said incorrectly that the collision caused grave damages to the boat and physical damages to the crew members.

Photo shows collision between the 'Varadero 1' and 'Ocean Warrior' in April 2002. A.M. Costa Rica archives via Sharwater Productions

The film shows contact between the much larger steel “Ocean Warrior” and the smaller wooden  “Varadero 1,” but it also shows the smaller boat pulling away without apparent damage.

The “Sharkwater” Web site shows two photos of the encounter. HERE! And HERE!

The Poder Judicial also claims incorrectly that the confrontation took place near the Isla de Coco, which is Costa Rican waters. Presumably the judicial allegations are a result of the claims of the shark fishermen.

Watson and “Sharkwater” filmmaker Rob Stewart showed the footage to judges and prosecutors when the Ocean Warrior docked in Puntarenas in April 2002. Watson said he posted $800 in bail and left to avoid preventative detention.

The issue surfaced again in June 2006 when the Poder Judicial announced a trial on the allegations and then said a judge had issued a warrant for Watson because he did not appear. Watson told a reporter then that he had no knowledge of the trial and that he would contact a lawyer in Costa Rica to resolve the issue.

The case appears to be advanced by companies engaged in shark finning and others who hold grudges against Watson and his organization. Sea Shepherd also is active in pursuing and harassing Japanese whaling vessels to the extent that fishermen in that country cut short their excursions in the Southern Ocean this year.

Sea Shepherd said in an email that “conservationists around the world maintain hope that the Costa Ricans will drop the charges against Captain Watson.  There is also a chance that the charges have already been dropped, but Sea Shepherd has been unable to confirm that with the Costa Rican officials. With Costa Rica’s rich biodiversity, it would be a travesty for them not to stand up for sharks, which sit at the highest levels of the food chain assuring balance among ecological communities in the ocean.”

While in jail, Watson is being assisted by the European Parliament Vice President Daniel Cohn Bendit and the European deputy Jose Bove, the organization said.

Watson, 62,  a Canadian with U.S. residency, founded Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in 1997. He is not shy about expressing his opinions and taking strong action against those he considers environmental criminals. He has written for A.M. Costa Rica HERE!

Ten years ago Watson and the “Ocean Warrior” encountered the Costa Rican boat fishing in Guatemalan waters and said it received a request from that country’s officials to escort the  “Varadero 1” to port so its captain and crew could face charges. During the trip, the  “Varadero 1” captain made the allegation by radio that Watson and the crew of “Ocean Warrior” were trying to kill him and his crew. At that point Watson said “Ocean Warrior” abandoned the effort and sailed for Isla del Coco where more illegal shark finners were sought out.

Costa Rica is a haven for shark finners. The country now prohibits the unloading of shark fins and carcasses at its docks. But other environmentalists note that the fins are unloaded in Nicaragua and imported by truck to Costa Rica. Photos have shown drying fins that represented thousands of sharks on a rooftop in Puntarenas.

The fins bring a high price in Asia.

As the plight of the shark becomes more desperate, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has begun to outline a new shark campaign for 2012, it said Sunday.  Julie Andersen, founder of Shark Savers and Shark Angels, has joined Sea Shepherd to lead a global campaign to save sharks from extinction, the organization added. Sea Shepherd will use its expertise and experience, as well as media savvy, to empower people around the world to take back their sharks – an animal critical to their, as well as the global, environment and economy, it said.

Sea Shepherd said it is offering its assistance to countries around the world to enforce international and local laws, end ruthless poaching, patrol marine sanctuaries under attack, implement high tech defenses, and empower locals through training and the provision of resources to take on the battle.

At the time the news of the original confrontation became public, a national Costa Rican television station reported the confrontation and included a representation of what producers thought had happened. They showed a so-called re-enactment of three men in a rowboat being bombarded by streams of water until the small craft capsized.

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