The head of conservation group Sea Shepherd, which is known for its scuffles with Japanese whaling vessels, was arrested in Germany, the organization said Monday.
The group said in a statement that Capt. Paul Watson was arrested in Frankfurt and could be extradited to Costa Rica where the arrest warrant was issued.
The charges are based on a confrontation over shark finning in Costa Rica in 2002 while Watson was filming “Sharkwater,” the statement reads.
Watson’s lawyer Oliver Wallasch told Deutsche Welle, “My client is shocked” after the court hearing. He is being charged with “violation of ships traffic.”Sea Shepherd said it found an illegal shark finning operation run by a Costa Rican-flagged ship called the Varadero. Shark finning is the practice of catching sharks, cutting off their fins, and then dumping the rest of the animal back in the water to die.
“On order of the Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero to cease their shark finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted,” the organization said. “While escorting the Varadero back to port, the tables were turned and a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew.”
Varadero crewmembers then alleged that Sea Shepherd members were trying to kill them, but “the video evidence proves this to be a fallacy,” it added.
“To avoid the Guatemalan gunboat, Sea Shepherd then set sail for Costa Rica, where they uncovered even more illegal shark finning activities in the form of dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings,” the statement reads.
Watson is being aided by European Parliament Vice President Daniel Cohn Bendit and the European deputy Jose Bove.
“Our hope is that these two honorable gentlemen can set Captain Watson free before this nonsense goes any further,” the group said. “The European Sea Shepherds have also mobilized to support Captain Watson.”
Sea Shepherd gained fame for sending ships down to the Southern Ocean to disrupt Japanese whaling vessels, using ropes, nets, and firing projectiles at the whalers. Several members of the group have also been detained in Japan over related incidents.