'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. Joe Mama

    Wow and all of this just before the new season is set to start. Must just be a lucky coincidence. Odd that they JUST issued the request for something from 2002. I wonder how all of the recent Animal Planet shows featuring Costa Rica have been impacting tourism there. Ah nevermind. I'm sure it's all just a coincidence.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm | Report abuse |
  2. mayukh

    hats off for paul.he is our Icon.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:46 pm | Report abuse |
  3. mike

    Some of these comments are appalling, humans more important then animals or sea life? Could anyone a imagine planet devoid of animals and sea life or even want too? The laws of international water needs change to preserve all life.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • jlv

      Does that include protecting the lives of humans. I bet you happily imagine a world with no people. Just like Jim Jones you expect everyone other than you to drink the kool aid. It's sad that your life is supported by all the things you hate, huhn. Like fossil fuels, nukes, and animal byproducts.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:55 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Brennon

    Stick it to the man, Paul!!

    May 21, 2012 at 12:51 pm | Report abuse |
  5. Brian

    The guy is a pirate. He should be thrown in prison.

    May 21, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • B.B.

      We need more pirates.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. The all potent one

    The world is a vampire

    May 21, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • lisaspups

      Awesome!! I love the Sea Shepherd and all it stands for in the fight to protect our oceans - for people, animals AND the planet.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jlv

      despite all your rage.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:56 pm | Report abuse |
  7. aj

    smells staged. I had no idea there were hippies in costa rica's cartel run gov't

    May 21, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Report abuse |
  8. Fupped Duck

    The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few.......or the one.....

    May 21, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • jlv

      Ah but paul will fix all of that by outweighing the many.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:57 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Earl

    Paul – To bad there are not many more with your desire to protect our natural world. Keep up the good work.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:01 pm | Report abuse |
  10. birdnerd

    I may not agree with all the methods they use to protect the seas, but Paul and his crew are very brave people that are willing to risk themselves to fight for a cause they believe strongly in. How many of us can say we are courageous enough to take action to try and make a difference in this world when there are so many negative consequences involved?

    May 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • xeno

      Well said. I'm glad there are brave people in the fight. However, I watched one episode where they were disrupting some celebration and yelling at people about eating whale. Yeah, it seems a horrible thing to do for many of us, but I wish these crusaders were trained in the art of changing public opinion. Screaming at people that they are wrong and psychopathic will probably harm their cause more than anything. If you tell an American eating beef is cruel and demonize them for it, they'll probably go have a couple extra Big Macs to spite you.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sean

      I think their aim is noble, but just like the OWS, their methods and actions are indefensible.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • jlv

      Violent fanatics usually are brave.

      May 21, 2012 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
    • jlv

      And as always their cause is more important than your existence. Even if all the noble goals are met it will never be enough, because that would remove purpose to their lives.

      May 21, 2012 at 3:00 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Uberfrog

    It's a travesty that he was arrested for standing up against what was an illegal activity, and a cruel one at that. Why are the Germans helping them?
    It's wonderful that we have heroes like Paul and the Shepherds, who gave a lot of whales another year of life last year. Humans are capable of wonderful things and Paul is a good example of that.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
  12. B

    Keep up the good fight Paul Watson

    May 21, 2012 at 1:15 pm | Report abuse |
  13. SlackMeyer

    Another environmentalist moron who puts animal life on the same tier as human life. Sure, save the whales. But lets not forget what is more important.

    May 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • lisaspups

      That;'s the whole point, SlackMeyer. Paul and his crew have not forgotten what is important, but, apparently, you never have and, possibly, never will. I hope that is not the case.

      May 21, 2012 at 1:39 pm | Report abuse |
    • disgusted

      Yes, a profit made by satisfying someone's craving for shark-fin soup is far more important than a healthy and diverse ocean. Pass the monkey-brains, please?

      May 21, 2012 at 1:41 pm | Report abuse |
  14. JJ

    the World is a vampire ...

    May 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Andy

    I love his dedication to saving marine wildlife.

    – A

    May 21, 2012 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
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