Sea Shepherd: ‘Nothing Japan does will stop us from returning to Antarctica this season’Posted: August 13, 2012
By Katerina Lorenzatos Makris
A middle-aged, white-haired guy recently jumped bail and left Germany. Given the fact that doing so is not illegal, according to his attorney, perhaps it’s not uncommon.
But probably most other people who skip bail in Germany and flee its borders don’t have their own TV show—one of Animal Planet’s most highly rated ones—with more than a million viewers per episode.
And probably they don’t run a large international animal protection organization that some praise as heroic and others condemn as a gang of eco-pirates.
Thus probably they aren’t eager to get out of Germany so as to hop on one of their group’s fleet of vessels and sail off to Antarctica.
Where probably they wouldn’t engage in various types of combat with people on other ships—people who kill animals.
Combat such as boarding, ramming, or sinking whaling ships, or throwing bottles of acid on their decks. Or harassing fishing boats so as to collect and dispose of fifty-mile-long illegal drift nets that incidentally capture birds, turtles, and other sea life.
Such combat being why this particular guy got himself arrested in Germany in the first place.
It’s all part of the latest battle in a war—a war called Whale Wars—waged, along with fervent supporters around the world, by a guy named Captain Paul Watson.
How Watson got arrested
According to Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, the nonprofit organization Watson founded and heads, here’s the thumbnail on why Germany took their leader into custody:
“Captain Watson had been detained in Germany for 70 days despite thousands of letters of support sent to the German Ministry of Justice from the public, celebrities, politicians and other luminaries arguing for his release of this politically motivated warrant.
“He was arrested in Frankfurt on May 13th on a ten-year-old warrant from Costa Rica while en route to Cannes, France. He was being detained in Germany for extradition to Costa Rica for an alleged “violation of ship traffic,” which occurred during the 2002 filming of the award-winning documentary, Sharkwater.
“The specific incident took place on the high seas in Guatemalan waters, when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark-finning operation run by 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 uncovered even more illegal shark-finning activities in the form of dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings.”
Why Watson’s attorney believes it’s OK for him to leave
“Skipping bail in Germany is not a crime,” wrote Watson’s attorney Oliver Wallasch in a letter posted to the Sea Shepherd website. “Article 2 of the German constitution states that Germany grants personal freedom. Therefore it is not even a crime in Germany to escape from prison.”
Basically, according to Wallasch, the worst result of Watson’s unannounced exit from the country is that he’ll probably lose the money posted for his bail bond.
Surprising as this may seem, what’s even more curious is that Wallasch implies the trouble might just end right there. Since Costa Rica had asked Germany to arrest and extradite Watson, but Watson is no longer there to be extradited, and the Germans can’t do anything about it because Watson didn’t really commit a crime in leaving… well, what’s a country to do? Auf Wiedersehen, Kapitan. See ya when we see ya.
What the Interpol colors mean: red, blue, or ‘crap’
There is the little matter of Interpol to be considered. Or maybe not. Sea Shepherd posts about the issue seem almost blasé.
“Interpol Notices are international alerts allowing police in member countries to share information,” explained administrative director Susan Hartland. “Interpol is not actively issuing arrest warrants, Interpol is not actively searching for the defendant, and Interpol is not involved in the extradition procedure. Interpol just exchanges information between the police in the member countries…
“The information that Interpol has issued a ‘red’ notice against Mr. Watson on the charges of Costa Rica only means that the police in the member countries shall be aware that Mr. Watson is wanted by Costa Rica. It is up to the police and the judicial authorities within the Interpol member countries whether or not they want to act on this local arrest warrant from Costa Rica.”
Hartland practically scoffed at the milder “blue” Interpol notice imposed by the Japanese as “just another feeble attempt by Japan to try and keep us from our mission to protect, conserve and defend our oceans… They tried for ‘red’ but Interpol recognized their attempts as politically motivated, so they were forced to settle for a ‘blue’ notice instead. Colluding with Germany and Costa Rica, Japan tried to extradite him, they have brought suit against us in the U.S., they have harassed and arrested Sea Shepherd crew members, and charged them with benign or bogus offenses when they’ve had the chance.”
She emphasized, “We operate within the legal confines of the United Nations World Charter for Nature. We are an enforcement entity acting legally against their relentless and archaic illegal whaling operations in a designated sanctuary and, as such, we will continue our direct action to protect the oceans and the wildlife in and around it.”
Then she quoted Watson as having said, “”Give me my name on a blue list, the red list, the black list, or the death list, for it is preferable to the I-don’t-give-a-crap list.”
And finally Hartland vowed, “Nothing Japan does will stop us from returning to Antarctica this season with four vessels and four crews of committed and passionate volunteers to shut down the Japanese whaling fleet.”
What the captain has to say
“I am presently in a place on this planet where I feel comfortable,” wrote Watson in a post to the Sea Shepherd website, “a safe place far away from the scheming nations who have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of our oceans.”
As for why he got arrested: “This was never really about Costa Rica. It has been about Japan all along. We have confronted the Japanese whalers for eight seasons and we have humiliated them at sea and more importantly we have frustrated their illegal profiteering from the killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary…
“Costa Rica and Germany have simply been pawns in the Japanese quest to silence Sea Shepherd in an attempt to stop our annual opposition to their illegal whaling activities…
“I can serve my clients better at sea than in a Japanese prison cell and I intend to do just that. In December, our ships will sail forth for the ninth campaign to oppose the outlaw Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The campaign will be called Operation Zero Tolerance and we will risk our ships and our selves yet again in the effort required to stop these pelagic bandits in their remorseless slaughter of the gentle giants of the seas.”
Visit AIR again soon for an interview with Captain Watson by one of our correspondents at last year’s Genesis Awards.
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Katerina Lorenzatos Makris is a career journalist, author, and editor. Credits include hundreds of articles for regional wire services and for outlets such as National Geographic Traveler, The San Francisco Chronicle, Travelers’ Tales, NBC’s Petside.com, and Examiner.com (Animal Policy Examiner), a teleplay for CBS-TV, a short story for The Bark magazine, and 17 novels for Avon, E.P. Dutton, Simon and Schuster, and other major publishers.
Together with coauthor Shelley Frost, Katerina wrote a step-by-step guide for hands-on, in-the-trenches dog rescue, Your Adopted Dog: Everything You Need to Know About Rescuing and Caring for a Best Friend in Need (The Lyons Press).