Over the years Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson has accumulated a long list of adjectives attached to his oversized personality, including pirate, marauder, and terrorist.
Now the key word most used to describe him is fugitive.
Watson is currently wanted by police on three continents, and last week INTERPOL issued a Red Notice for Watson, asking member countries to arrest or detain him for extradition to one of three countries that currently want to jail and put him on trial (Japan, Germany and Costa Rica).
The Japanese are as intent on hunting Watson down and putting him on trial as he is persistent in chasing whale hunters around the globe. The Japanese are leaning on friendly governments around the world to keep up the harassment. (Costa Rica has an arrest warrant out for Watson on a 2002 charge of endangering the life of a shark finner. Is it coincidence that Costa Rica gets a boatload of money from Japan to help support its national parks?)
And they almost had him. Arrested in Germany in May on the Costa Rican request for extradition, he was held for 45 days under house arrest in Frankfurt. When he heard from a government source that the Ministry of Justice was readying to honor an extradition request from the Japanese, he fled the country, skipping out on his $300,000 bail.
Watson is not saying where he is these days, other than it is a “safe haven.”
In a letter to friends and supporters, via Sea Shepherd’s website, he only said, “I am presently in a place on this planet where I feel comfortable, a safe place far away from the scheming nations who have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of our oceans.’
Watson blames the whole chase on a political cabal. In a note to the Guardian he wrote, “I am very disappointed with the German government. For me it is obvious that the German government conspired with Japan and Costa Rica to detain me so that I could be handed over to the Japanese. For me it is clear that they made the political decision to turn me over to the Japanese even before a court decision was made.”
“I had no choice but to leave Germany. If not, I would now be in a cell in Japan. For with Japan, there is the absolute certainty that once in Japanese custody, I will never be released.”
His lead boat, Steve Irwin, arrived in Sydney on Friday, but there were no sign of Watson. His website says he is expected to make an anti-whaling presentation at a fundraising event in Sydney in November. Which means the ultimate modern-day pirate could end up living permanently at sea, where he can evade police arrest in international waters.
Like Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, Watson has a standing offer of asylum in Ecuador.
“The question now is what should I do from the safe haven I currently occupy?” Watson wrote to the Guardian. “There is only one answer. I have no choice but to continue to serve my clients, the whales. I can do that far better at the helm of the ‘Steve Irwin’ commanding the Sea Shepherd fleet…than I can defending myself from bogus charges by Japan.”
Sea Shepherd currently operates four ships, all expected to be heading soon for the Southern Ocean to continue its annual harassment of Japanese whalers.
“If I can return to my ships, I will. If not, my captains and their crews will return without me to once more defend the whales in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.”
Watson said that if he was “captured and politically crucified” before the next whale hunt, the Japanese “will find that I am not meek and unprepared.”
“The loss of my personal freedom or even my life will be a fair price for achieving the objective of realizing the security of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,” he wrote.
“Our goal this year is to achieve zero kills and we will do all within our power to make that goal a reality,” he said. “It is expected that the Japanese will do whatever they can to stop us and one of their tactics is to eliminate me as the leader of this campaign.
“They may or may not do so but either way they cannot stop the passion of my officers and crew, who will stand with me or who will stand, if need be, without me.”
Should the charges against Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson be dropped?