'Whale Wars' captain freed on bail from German jail
Activists put up a poster calling for a German court to free Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson.
May 21st, 2012
11:02 AM ET

'Whale Wars' captain freed on bail from German jail

Controversial Sea Shepherd conservationist and "Whale Wars" star Paul Watson was released from a German jail on Monday after posting 250,000 euros ($318,000) bail in an extradition case from Costa Rica.

Watson, whose attempts to disrupt Japanese whalers at sea gained fame through Animal Planet’s “Whale Wars” TV show, was detained last weekend at the Frankfurt airport after Costa Rica issued an international request for his arrest.

Costa Rican authorities allege that Watson’s crew aboard Sea Shepherd’s Ocean Warrior ship endangered a Costa Rican fishing vessel during a confrontation off Guatemala’s coast in 2002, according to the Frankfurt court.

The court ruled Friday that Germany will consider the request and that Costa Rica will have 90 days to make its case. The German Ministry of Justice then will decide whether to extradite Watson.

Speaking outside the prison Monday, Watson defended what happened in the Costa Rica case.

"I had to take action with my crew a decade ago to protect hundreds of sharks, and of course, those shark poachers have very powerful allies in government and other places," he said.

The U.S.-based Sea Shepherd has denied wrongdoing in the Costa Rica case and urged supporters through its website and social media to write to German officials, arguing that the charges have less to do with law than with Watson’s anti-conservationist enemies and that it doubts he would get a fair trial.

"It's very strange that this so-called extradition thing was dismissed by Interpol in every country except Germany," Watson said Monday.

“As Sea Shepherd becomes increasingly more effective at protecting marine wildlife globally, the enemies of the oceans are using all of their resources to stop us,” the group said in a statement. The extradition request "we believe stems from Sea Shepherd victories in curbing shark finning on the high seas.”

In the 2002 incident, Sea Shepherd ship operations officer Peter Hammarstedt said, the Ocean Warrior found the Costa Rican crew killing sharks for their fins in Guatemalan waters. It initially had permission from Guatemalan authorities to stop it and tow the vessel into port, he said.

The Ocean Warrior used water cannons on the fishing vessel in an effort to stop it, but “there were no injuries and no physical damage to any ship,” Hammarstedt said.

The Ocean Warrior succeeded in stopping the ship, but Guatemalan authorities eventually asked Watson to release it, Hammarstedt said.

The confrontation is detailed in part of a 2007 documentary, “Sharkwater,” Hammarstedt said.

Shark finning is the practice of cutting the fins off sharks and throwing the shark itself back into the sea, where they die. The fins are used for expensive soup, mostly in China.

On Monday, Watson said he hoped he could use attention the case is generating to bring a new focus on preserving life in the world's oceans.

"We have all the laws and regulations we need to protect our oceans, but we don't have governments with the guts to enforce those regulations," he said.

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Filed under: Costa Rica • Crime • Germany • Nature • Showbiz • TV
soundoff (137 Responses)
  1. ckeller

    I'm on your side, Paul Watson!

    May 21, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
  2. 1000 Fathoms

    Raping the worlds oceans of sensitive eco balancing fish and mammals is an act of war. It should be stopped by any means possible.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
    • hang3xc

      What about trawlers that EACH scoop up millions of pounds of fish every season. That's OK because they aren't they magnificent shark or whale? Do you eat fish? The fish you eat is OK though? Trawlers are stripping the ocean floors BARE but nobody seems to mind

      May 21, 2012 at 10:43 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Steve

    Eco terrorism. HIs actions fly in the face of his beliefs. He is a violent pirate.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  4. Jeff Wilson

    I like what this guy does as far as trying to protect the animals in the ocean. However...the way he goes about it I have an issue with. He treats it more like "vigilantism" more than protecting.

    There are ways to go about protecting our wildlife...and sometimes this guy goes about it the wrong way.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
  5. Nick Bruiser

    That's because nobody wants anything to do with Africa

    May 21, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. Aleed

    Hats off to you Capt Paul, Pete Bethune and crew! Until either there is an effective international force that upholds the laws or the laws change to line up with the hypocrisy that's going on, let these guys do what they do. Clearly governments that condemn the action have some alterior motive behind this whether it's turning a blind eye to illegal hunting or whatever.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
  7. Chris HOnry

    This is because LATIN AMERICA has a problem with the USA. They are corrupt to the top and they don't take care of their people, so their people run away to the USA and their govt blames US immigration enforcement and law when the problem is they are greedy and corrupt and don't take care of their own.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  8. SierraAV8R

    Watson is an Eco-terrorist who uses violence to impose his fanatical beliefs on others.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Idiotsinc

    Self appointed ocean patrol.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:02 pm | Report abuse |
  10. KM

    I respect Watson's commitment, as we all know that it takes revolutionary acts to deter crimes against the planet's inhabitants, just as it took a bloody revolution to free America from the tyranny of a culture that claimed it 'owned those living in its territories'. We do not own the planet, nor its creatures. We should not profit from their destruction, and someone must stop those that do. I wish I had the commitment and guts that he does.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:03 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Michele

    Paul Watson We LOVE you !

    May 21, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
  12. HA25

    So Guatemalan authorities are OK with what was done as legal enforcement against illegal operations by a fishing vessel flying a foreign flag.
    Now that country wants to protect it's illegal citizens by going after a person instead of using the embassy system? Sounds like Costa Rica just wants the money. Funny coming from a country like Costa Rica that is so invested in "eco-tourism"...

    May 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
  13. NetNinja

    The ocean is a big place and the ammount of poaching is so vast that one man can't do it alone. The sad thing is a lot of these fishing vessels do nothing to replenish the seas of stock that is taken from it.

    Nothing is put back into the ocean, it's all take, take and take.

    When the fish are gone and the oceans fail to maintain themselves or the system goes out of balance we will have nobody to blame but ourselves, so eat up and enjoy and don't worry about the high ammounts of mercury you are ingesting. Out of sight is out of mind.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • hang3xc

      "The sad thing is a lot of these fishing vessels do nothing to replenish the seas of stock that is taken from it."
      A LOT of these fishing vessels do nothing to replenish the seas of stock that is taken from it??? NO FISHING VESSEL does ANYTHING to replenish the stock! They ALL take as much as they can and raise a stink because they aren't allowed to take more. The north Atlantic off Boston to Maine is wiping out cod and herring. They were going to close fishing for cod this year, then, instead, they RAISED the limits. Funny all anyone cares about are the sharks and whales.

      The only good episode of whale wars was the one where they got their boat cut in half. Paul is a punk. He's also wasting TONS of FOSSIL FUEL (literally) every week just to throw stink bombs at ships and blow his horn, WHEN he can find them.

      May 21, 2012 at 10:55 pm | Report abuse |
  14. ken

    Does this Watson guy understand the definition of the word DIPLOMACY? I suspect that his acts of high sea vigilantism have proven to be more sensational and lucrative, typical of inviornmental preservationists.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Duane

      Do you seriously think diplomacy works if he was to go up to these fisherman/poachers and talk to them? Face it he is using passive/aggressive tactics and they work

      May 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm | Report abuse |
  15. RocketJL

    This is terrible. The fault lies with the people in governments that have laws,but refuse to enforce them. The captain should know that in America we have a lot of laws, which our government says that it will only enforce those laws it wants to. Figure that. Why doesn't the captain start cleaning up at home and start a publicity project to expose what happens in other countries. Sorry, but if his boys attacked me on the high seas, I would shoot them. Have a nice day.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:15 pm | Report abuse |
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