Watson targeted by fin mafia, Sea Shepherd says of case

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has expanded on its view that its founder, Capt. Paul Watson, would be killed if he returned to Costa Rica.

“The Taiwanese Shark Fin Mafia has had a $20,000 bounty on his head for years, said the organization based in the U.S. State of Washington. “We know the arm of the Taiwanese Shark Finning Mafia reaches not just to the illegal fishing industry in Costa Rica, but also to the prison system there. Sea Shepherd fears that not only would Captain Paul Watson not receive a fair trial in Costa Rica, but he would likely not survive jail long enough to see the inside of a courtroom.”

Watson still is in Germany, and the organization is seeking to get government ministers to intervene to halt the extradition of the well-known conservationist. The organization said that there was a German bank holiday Thursday, so another court session is expected today. The organization is directing its appeals to the minister of justice, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, and the minister of foreign affairs, Guido Westerwelle.

“This is our final effort to ask the honorable ministers to intervene before the extradition process officially begins,” said Sea Shepherd. “We only have hours to change the minds of the German officials who can make a difference and not only save the life of Captain Paul Watson, but also save the lives of whales, dolphins, seals, and fish that he has spent his life courageously defending.”

Watson is the subject of a Costa Rican warrant based on an incident in Guatemalan waters in 2002. Watson’s crew sprayed a Costa Rican fishing boat with water and had a small collision. The Costa Rican crew claims damage was heavy and individuals were hurt.

Film footage from the award-winning movie “Sharkwater” show the apparently undamaged Costa Rican fishing boat sailing away. Watson has claimed that the Costa Rican crew was fishing for sharks illegally in Guatemalan waters and that he and his crew tried to bring them to shore for police action.

Watson is best known for the way his fleet of ships harassed the Japanese whaling fleet for years in the Southern Ocean.

Since Costa Rica issued the warrant in 2011 Watson has been in a number of countries that appear to have ignored the request to detain him.

Watson missed a court hearing in 2006 and told a reporter by email that he did not know it was to take place. Costa Rican prosecutors are levying a charge that carries a maximum 15-year sentence.

Shark finning is a controversial activity in Costa Rica. For years the government turned a blind eye to the practice that resulted in the deaths of perhaps millions of sharks so that diners in Asia could have a soup. Now Costa Rica prohibits landing shark fins from the sea but does not prohibit their entry by truck from Nicaragua.

Sea Shepherd executives visited Watson in his cell Thursday, they said.

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