America’s most notorious and controversial ship captain is now an international fugitive.
On Wednesday, INTERPOL formally issued a Red Notice for Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (and Whale Wars fame) after the notorious sea captain skipped bail in Germany as he faced extradition to Costa Rica.
Although not technically an arrest warrant (as Interpol does not have the authority to issue arrest warrants), a Red Notice is the highest level of alert INTERPOL can issue to its 190 member nations. This notice puts the onus on the specific country on whether or not to detain Watson.
In May, Paul Watson was arrested in Germany on grounds of a 10-year old Costa Rican arrest warrant that sought his extradition back to the Central American country to face charges equivalent to attempted murder. Germany eventually granted Watson bail, which he posted, however Watson fled the country on July 22nd after 70 days under house arrest.
“Watson’s failure to satisfy the bail conditions set by the German court,” INTERPOL says in its notice, “and the additional information provided by Costa Rica concerning the underlying charges, it was concluded that a Red Notice could be issued in compliance with INTERPOL’s Constitution and rules.”
In its notice, INTERPOL specifies the charges against Watson as ‘causing a danger of drowning or of an air disaster’ in connection to an alleged water cannon incident that took place in April 2002 while filming Sharkwater, a documentary film meant to expose the ugly shark-hunting/finning industry.
The specific incident in question took place in Guatemalan waters, when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark-finning operation run by the Costa Rican vessel, the Varadero. On order of Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero to cease their shark-finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted. While escorting the Varadero back to port, the tables were turned and a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew. To avoid the Guatemalan gunboat, Sea Shepherd then set sail for Costa Rica, where the crew continued their operations.
On their website, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society calls the charges against Watson “bogus” and “politically motivated”.
“The elevation of the attack against our organization and our founder, Captain Watson, is not unexpected,” said Susan Hartland, Administrative Director of Sea Shepherd. “Costa Rica has been acting as a puppet for Japan throughout this case and we expect that to continue,” she said. “Japan is driving this effort in retaliation for our successful campaigns to stop them from whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. We’ve cost them millions of dollars and exposed their shame to the world because of their refusal to stop the slaughter of whales in an established sanctuary under the lie and loophole of ‘research.’”
Still, Paul Watson’s location, and future, remain unknown.