By Kira Kalinina
Captain Paul Watson has been found not guilty of releasing 800 tuna belonging to the British “Fish & Fish” company. However, Costa Rica continues to demand his extradition from Germany on the grounds of attacking a ship, and Japan may also subscribe to the charges.
“Environmental pirate” Paul Watson, the head of Sea Shepherd – the most radical movement for the protection of the environment – was acquitted by the British court of the case of releasing 800 tuna belonging to the British “Fish & Fish” company in 2010 in the Mediterranean Sea.
Watson is awaiting possible extradition under house arrest in Germany, where he was detained on the warrant of Costa Rica. In addition, Japan may also join the prosecutors, charging Paul Watson with an attempt to sink Japanese whaling ships. The captain himself insists on his innocence and claims that his arrest is politically motivated.
At the moment Paul Watson is charged with creating a threat of a ship wreck that dates back 10 years ago. At that time, the Sea Shepherd group of marine fauna defenders – at the request of Costa Rica’s government – entered a fight with shark poachers. However, afterwards the poachers managed to turn things in their favor, and in the end it was Captain Watson who was pronounced guilty.
Paul Watson’s story began in June 1975, during the first Greenpeace campaign in defense of whales. Being followers of Gandhi’s philosophy of non-violence, Paul Watson and Robert Hunter decided to become a human barrier between the whaling ship and gray whales. The poachers ignored their gesture; the first harpoon swished right over their heads, piercing an 8-meter-long whale. Another whale was shot by a poacher point-blank. “The whale was looking at me,” Watson recalled later, “And I saw something that has changed my life forever: it was understanding. And I saw something else –pity; but it was not self-pity, they were feeling pity for us – the ones who can thoughtlessly and ruthlessly kill them.” Two years later, Watson formed the Sea Shepherd group. Its main goal is to maintain international laws, treaties, and pacts.
News of Captain Watson’s Buddhist principles in his activities quickly spread throughout the world. In 1987, the Dalai Lama presented Watson with a statuette of Hayagriva – the wrathful God-protector of Knowledge from Hindu mythology. Canadian film director and producer Trish Dolman traveled together with Watson on board his ship for a long time. In 2011, she released her documentary “Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson”.
“The ocean is so multifaceted that laws are of no use there. Coast guards and other agencies are patrolling their territory, but do not cross the borders of their states. As a result, once in the sea people are doing whatever they want. When on board Paul’s ship, I was a witness of incessant illegal fish catching. Paul always acts on the verge of law. But people are catching fish in a barbaric manner, and no one stops them.”
“If you can’t teach them, frighten them to death. While poachers are running, they cannot kill.” In 2002, armed with this idea, Watson and his team decided to frighten poachers at the request of the Costa Rican government. They were the so-called “shark mafia”, which catches sharks for the sake of their fins. As a matter of fact, the fins themselves are tasteless, but shark fin soup is a real delicacy, and a plate of it can cost $100. Therefore, shark hunting became a profitable poaching business. According to the WWF, every year about 100 million sharks are caught all around the world, while 80-90% of the largest populations of these predators are already exterminated. At the time of writing, the two biggest shark reserves were near the Galapagos Islands and the Costa Rican Cocoa Island.
Paul Watson fulfilled his task. Yet back on dry land, the bandits managed to turn everything in their favor in court. As a result it was Watson who was to be arrested. Prosecutor Laura Monje commented on the situation.
“A human life is the legal welfare that is protected in the first place, and in this sense it is more important than anything else. He is accused of endangering the lives of people; and the circumstances which you are talking about cannot alter this fact. Charges against Mr. Watson are in question now. As for poaching, I know nothing about it.”
Costa Rican authorities wanted to detain Watson, but he managed to escape. Now he faces from six-to-fifteen years of imprisonment. Ironically enough, the main proof of his guilt is in the 2006 documentary “Sharkwater”, which was shot by a fan of Paul Watson – photographer and diver Rob Stewart. The young man made the film in order to prove that the fear of sharks was forced and overblown by modern horror films.
According to Laura Monje, Costa Rica is actively preoccupied with an official request for Watson’s extradition to Costa Rica. Now the captain is under obligation not to leave Germany. Watson is afraid that, if he is extradited to Costa Rica, the local mafia will try to kill him. He is sure that a bounty has been put on his head, and no one will be able to protect him from the Costa Rican gangsters.
It would be nice to believe that the captain’s fears are exaggerated as the case has found a broad response in the world. The Cocoa islanders are organizing a demonstration against the barbaric killing of sharks, and the local coastal police have started to patrol their appointed territory, which can only hinder the profits of the shark mafia. In addition, since then shark catching has been prohibited in almost twenty countries. Paul Watson is actively supported by numerous adherents all over the world, including music group the Red Hot Chili Peppers, actress Alicia Silverstone, and model and actress Pamela Anderson. French actress and animal rights activist Brigitte Bardot, 77, even came forward proposing that she should go to jail instead of Watson.