After skipping bail in Germany, Sea Shephard founder returns to sea

SEATTLE — The founder of the anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd is returning to Antarctic waters to track and confront Japanese whaling fleets, months after skipping bail in Germany and going on the run.

From aboard a Sea Shepherd ship, Paul Watson told The Associated Press on Tuesday that his job is to protect whales, and he can’t do that if he’s in custody. He said the Sea Shepherd fleet is already in the Southern Ocean.

“I want to stay in the ocean,” the 62-year-old said. “I’m not going to be able to do that from some holding cell in Japan.”

In July, Watson fled from Germany after being arrested at the behest of the Costa Rican government, which is pursuing him on a warrant that claims he endangered a fishing vessel crew in 2002.

Watson contends the Costa Rican charges were filed because of pressure from the Japanese government and that he eventually would have been extradited to Japan if he had remained in custody.

Shortly after his arrest in May, Sea Shepherd issued a statement saying Watson was filming a documentary at the time of the alleged incident, which took place in Guatemalan waters in 2002.

The U.S.-based group said it encountered an illegal shark finning operation run by a Costa Rican ship, the Varadero, and told the crew to stop and head to port to be prosecuted. The crew accused Watson’s team of trying to kill them by ramming their ship.

Watson, a Canadian citizen, left Greenpeace in 1977 to set up the more action-oriented Sea Shepherd. The group has waged aggressive campaigns to protect whales, dolphins and other marine animals, prompting Japanese officials to label its members terrorists and seek Watson’s arrest for allegedly masterminding violent protests.

The environmental group, based in Friday Harbor, gained fame after being featured in the “Whale Wars” reality TV show.

Sea Shepherd activists use stink bombs and other nonlethal means to interfere with the whalers. The group argues its activities are supported by international law.

This year, the group is calling their campaign “Operation Zero Tolerance” and will feature four main ships, one helicopter and drones.

Watson said the drones will be used for surveillance, reconnaissance, and documentation. He said the drones are military-quality and can fly hundreds of miles head of his ships.

Watson also said it’s unlikely he’ll return to the U.S., saying American authorities would likely turn him over to Japan.

In February, a U.S. federal judge in Seattle declined to restraint the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s activities, turning down a request by the Institute for Cetacean Research, the Japanese whalers.

More in Local News

Young woman missing from Mukilteo found safe

She called her parents and told them she was at a museum in Seattle.

Mom and brother turn in suspect in Stanwood robberies

The man is suspected of robbing the same gas station twice, and apologizing to the clerk afterward.

Edmonds police are searching for Derrick “Wiz” Crawford, 22, in the homicide of his roommate. If you see him, call 911. (Edmonds Police Department)
Roommate suspected in Edmonds killing found hiding in closet

Police had been searching for him for 10 days before locating him at a house in Everett.

Video shows man suspected of attacking a woman in Edmonds

The man allegedly threw her on the ground, then ran away after the she began kicking and screaming.

Officials to test sanity of suspect in Everett crime spree

He allegedly tried to rob and clobber a transit worker, then fled and struggled with police.

Train kills man who was trying to get off tracks in Monroe

The conductor said he attempted to stop after sighting the man, who’d been lying on the rails.

Navy to put filter in Coupeville’s contaminated water system

Chemicals from firefighting foam was found in the town’s drinking water.

Suspect sought in two Everett bank robberies

He’s described as 5-foot-10 to 6-foot-1, with dark hair and a goatee, and may have a neck tattoo.

Former Monroe cop loses appeal on sex crimes conviction

Once a highly respected officer, he was found guilty of secretly videotaping his kids’ babysitter.

Most Read