UPDATE: On Friday, Frankurt's higher court announced that it had placed Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson on preliminary arrest, reports The Guardian. This came after it was decided that an extradition would be allowable under German Law. Costa Rican officials now have 90 days to send Germany the proper extradition papers. Watson is expected to be released on bail next week, however, he will not be allowed to leave Germany.
Arrested last weekend in Germany, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s Captain Paul Watson, a pioneer in sea life protection, faces extradition to Costa Rica on a political charge masquerading as a decade-old “navigational violation.”
With a bounty on his head of more than $20,000 from the Taiwanese shark-finning mafia, Watson’s liberty and life are in exceptional danger if extradited—and only you can help us safeguard his life.
From the outside looking in, you may see Captain Watson as a hardcore pirate activist. And why wouldn’t you? The Japanese and Costa Rican media have done a spectacular job of misrepresenting Watson in almost every capacity, even claiming that is he is racist and economically motivated.
Other members of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, including girls as young as 17, have been victimized by these same entities and falsely accused of white supremacy and drug addiction in an effort to discredit the organization’s one true goal: to protect innocent marine wildlife from violent death by harpoons, machetes, and spears.
Though his direct-action tactics are debateable, one thing is for certain: Captain Watson is a victim, not a criminal.
In 2002, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was involved in an altercation with an illegal Costa Rican shark-fishing vessel, the Varadero, and a dispatched dangerous gunboat as they escorted the vessel back to shore in Guatemalan waters. Caught and facing punishment, the fishermen claimed Watson tried to murder them. This was enough to take the heat off, and Watson was arrested on shore. The illegal fishermen were not arrested. Fair? Hardly. Especially considering Watson’s innocence is clearly documented in the 2007 film Sharkwater.
Nevertheless, ten years later, Captain Watson has been arrested.
Is it a coincidence that the President of the Republic of Costa Rica recently met in Japan with the Japanese Prime Minister, a nation known to bribe poorer countries into supporting their controversial whaling and fishing operations? Is it a coincidence that this arrest has taken place more than a decade later and on the eve of a new shark-finning campaign from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society that would target and upset shark finning operations in Costa Rica? Is it a coincidence Watson’s arrest comes fresh on the heels of a weak lawsuit filed by the Institute of Cetacean Research (read: a whaling entity) against Watson and Sea Shepherd? Is it a coincidence all the aforementioned entities have ties to the controversial fisheries Watson and his Sea Shepherd’s fight so adamantly against?
Every year, more than 100 million sharks are fished from the sea, sliced into pieces and thrown back into the ocean while still alive. A significant percentage of shark-finning operations take place in protected waters and against protected species, despite bans on shark finning in marine sanctuaries.
Countless people who oppose this practice have been physically endangered. One example of this is filmmaker Rob Stewart, who was chased by gunboats after photographing dried fins on the rooftop of a Costa Rican warehouse.
Wealthy nations, like Japan, pay poorer nations for their partnership in controversial whaling and fishing operations—both blatant acts of cruelty against animals and instances of blackmail and bribery.
The Taiwanese mafia and similar criminal hubs and drug smugglers take an active role in the shark-finning industry, which expands as far as Hong Kong to Costa Rica. In some instances, shark-finning operations with ties to mafia activity and drug smuggling have been heavily and financially associated with illegal prostitution and the sex trade.
Watson, who fights to liberate sharks and poorer nations from such blatant instances of blackmail, has been politically accused of criminal negligence for acting to uphold a law: That is a victim.
Illegal shark-fin fishermen exploiting the lack of sanction over the shark-fin trade and who pervert the course of justice in fear for their own liberty when caught: That is a criminal.
How You Can Help Free Watson
In a highly unusual move, the public prosecutor presiding over Watson’s case stated that the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs has the power to stop the extradition procedures on political grounds.
If the German Ministry of Justice or the German Ministry of Foreign Affairs give notice that they would not grant an extradition of Captain Watson to Costa Rica, the case would be over and Watson would be freed immediately.
In the name of marine wildlife and a just legal system, please call, email, and fax the following Ministers to politely ask for the release of Captain Paul Watson:
1) Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger—
Federal Minister of Justice
Platz der Republik
1 1011 Berlin
Telephone 030 - 227 751 62
Fax 030 - 227 764 02
2) Federal Ministry of Justice
Telephone: +49 (030) 18 580-0
Telefax: +49 (030) 18 580-9525
3) Dr. Guido Westerwelle - Minister of Foreign Affairs
Platz der Republik 1
Tel.: 030 / 22771636
Fax: 030 / 22776562
Elissa Sursara is an Australian environmental conservationist, filmmaker and wildlife expert working on behalf of endangered species, threatened habitats and animals in crisis. She is a celebrity ambassador for the WWF, Earth Hour and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. @ElissaSursara