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Wanted by Costa Rica, Arrested in Germany: Wildlife Activist Paul Watson

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Captain Paul Watson (white hair and beard) and the crew of the Farley Mowat. Source: WikiMedia Commons

Paul Watson, the controversial founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, was arrested by German law enforcement authorities in Frankfurt earlier today. The Canadian-born Mr. Watson, who also holds citizenship in the United States, has an outstanding warrant in Costa Rica for attempted murder.

According to a news report in TeleNoticias Channel 7, the president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society made the official announcement of the arrest on the organization’s Facebook Timeline on Sunday. He was traveling to France at the time he was arrested, and is scheduled to appear in court on Thursday.

Mr. Watson’s attempted murder charge in Costa Rica stems from a bizarre situation that unfolded en route to Isla del Coco, in the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, back in 2002. Mr. Watson and his organization was actually invited by Elizabeth Odio Benito, who was Minister of the Environment at the time, to come to our country and join the fight against shark fin poachers.

Mr. Watson arrived on the Farley Mowat, a vessel named after the Canadian naturalist, to Puntarenas. Mr. Watson was in command of the Farley Mowat when he allegedly rammed a Costa Rican boat suspected of illegal shark fishing. That happened near the territorial waters of Guatemala, and Mr. Watson claims that he was instructed by Guatemalan authorities to detain the Tico fishermen, which he did. After the ramming and subsequent towing of the boat, Guatemalan authorities told Mr. Watson on radio that he would be arrested for his conduct in the high seas, so he instead released the Tico boat and changed course to Costa Rica in order to avoid arrest.

According to a 2002 article in The San Francisco Chronicle, the Tico fishermen then claimed that Mr. Watson’s crew attacked them when they were adrift and engaged in mechanical repairs. They claim that the Farley Mowat crew used water cannons and pyrotechnic flares on them. Once Mr. Watson arrived in Puntarenas, it took some time before the local prosecutor ordered a ship arrest while an investigation was conducted. The Farley Mowat was freed on a bond of $850, and Mr. Watson’s attorney advised him to sail away and flee Costa Rica while he could.

Mr. Watson has been labeled an “eco-terrorist” by Diario El Clarin, a prominent Argentinian newspaper. He reportedly left environmental organization Greenpeace because he thought its members were not radical enough. He has been accused of sabotaging fishing and whaling vessels with the intent of sinking them in Canada, Japan and Norway. He is not welcome in Icelandic territory.

Back in 2009, Mr. Watson accused Costa Rica of being the nation with the worst track record in the world with regard to prevention of shark fin poaching. His statements are part of a documentary that aired on HBO a few years ago about the case of the Dover Strait, a vessel detained in Mexico and found to be carrying up to a ton of cocaine hidden inside frozen sharks caught in Costa Rica. Mr. Watson has also alleged the participation of Tico businessmen with political connections in the lucrative illegal shark fin trade.

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