'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. jim

    Keep up the good work guys

    May 21, 2012 at 11:16 am | Report abuse |
  2. Phil

    Put this terrorist in Jail for good.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Eric johnson

      Terrorist? I wish we had a million more!! Have you ever seen a shark finned and thrown back in the water to die? I want my daughter to enjoy all the ocean's animals in the future. Get a life loser!!!!

      May 21, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  3. peridot2

    Is that you, Darth?

    May 21, 2012 at 11:23 am | Report abuse |
  4. Whome

    mmmmmmmmmmm whales delicious.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. freeme10

    I get why they do it, but wish they were more effective. IThen again, I can't knock their tactics because they are on the scene seeing the killing first hand. We need to protect our oceans from over-fishing and irresponsible fishing (and hunting).

    May 21, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  6. JonahBC

    Hat Tip to you Captain Watson.....

    May 21, 2012 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  7. Geest

    I no fan or supporter of whaling or finning, but this guy and his whole crew should be strung up like the Pirates they are. Its only noble until they kill somebody, something Watson has no qualms about stating that he supports.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  8. BigAl

    NINE, I repeat NINE years ago?!?!?!? And CR is just now doing something about it?

    May 21, 2012 at 11:29 am | Report abuse |
  9. Bob

    Go Capt Paul!!!!!!!!!!

    Keep up the fight, Whale Warriors!

    May 21, 2012 at 11:32 am | Report abuse |
  10. Bob


    I no fan or supporter of whaling or finning, but this guy and his whole crew should be strung up like the Pirates they are


    Ridiculous. They risk their OWN lives. They should be hailed as hero's, and I do just that for they are.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:34 am | Report abuse |
  11. ForReal?

    So we cant get the international "community" to do a thing about Somalian pirates that kill people, but we can arrest people at international aiports for legally following the directives of a government that deputized them in territorial waters to stop illegal activities. Hijack a tanker, get rich. Stop killing, go to jail.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  12. tymont12

    Activism is great, but Paul Watson is a nut job. There's a reason Green Peace kicked him out decades ago! Although I can't stand the man and think his methods are a little unjust or even downright wrong/dangerous, he at least gets people talking.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
  13. Andrew

    Care more for animals than humans? What's wrong with this? Having their beliefs to be universally, forcibly accepted above any existing cultures or traditions doesn't seem to serve a purpose other than self-serving arrogance.
    Why haven't they gone after the Inuits or Eskimos? Crab fishing? Too much money involved????

    May 21, 2012 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  14. robert garrett

    THis is a simple case of piracy.. the end, does not justify the means. I do not condone illegal fishing off any coast. However there is no way, that I can justify the physical attacks, on individuals, and ships that these people have made. Attacking another vessel, in open waters, flying another countries flag, can only be one of two things. An act of war, for this it has to be condoned by the goverment whos flag is flying on the vessel, or piracy.

    May 21, 2012 at 11:41 am | Report abuse |
    • usamare

      If you're calling the tree/fish huggers pirates, and don't offer a better solution, then in fact you DO condone illegal fishing.

      May 21, 2012 at 11:58 am | Report abuse |
    • Tiff

      I agree with you to an extent.. IF you read the article, Sea Shepard HAD the permission of the guatamalen government. Any ship can be deemed by the goverment of that country as being allowed to enforce the laws

      May 21, 2012 at 12:00 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Cynthia Wright

    This captain is a HERO!

    May 21, 2012 at 11:42 am | Report abuse |
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