Paul Watson: “The oceans are the last free place on the planet.”


Anti-Whaling Activist Paul Watson Marks a Year of Fleeing on the Sea

Paul Watson in 2008, in front of the ship, MY Steve Irwin, via guano/Flickr

Just as Edward Snowden is caught in the in-between-nation zone of a Moscow airport, the anti-whaling activist Paul Watson is caught in a nation-free life at sea. Watson hasn’t been into a port since fleeing Germany in July last year in order to keep himself from being extradited to Japan.

Watson is the founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which fights to preserve marine life most famously by directly disrupting whaling operations. The group’s aggressive actions have earned it attention from the public, via the Animal Planet show Whale Wars, and from governments, including those of the United States, Canada, and Japan, which calls them eco-terrorists.

Last known to be aboard the Sea Shepherd ship the MY Steve Irwin when it confronted Japanese ships in the Southern Ocean in February, Watson’s exact whereabouts are currently unknown. Still, for being a refugee, Watson maintains a fairly high media profile. He regularly gives interviews about Sea Shepard’s actions and also his own tenuous situation.

Legal trouble has been a defining trait for the man who describes himself as a “pirate of compassion.” The origins of his life-on-the-lam span continents and decades. In 2002, Watson and a Sea Shepherd ship was sailing through Guatemalan waters when they came across a Costa Rican vessel that was slicing fins off of sharks.

According to Peter Hammarstedt, a spokesman for Sea Shepherd, they called the authorities and took control of the fishing ship, only to have the Guatemalans show up with a gunboat to arrest Watson. The Sea Shepherd fled to Costa Rica, where Watson was charged with “violating navigational regulations.” The charges were dropped, and then reinstated.

Ten years later, Watson was detained at an airport in Frankfurt on behalf of Costa Rica. While being detained, it occurred to Watson that the Japanese—his longtime arch nemeses—might be behind the arrest, not Costa Rica. “We have created some very powerful enemies in the Japanese government,” Hammarstedt told The New York Times, and also said that Watson thought the Japanese were behind the arrest.

So when Watson was released on bail, he fled rather than risk extradition. “I decided I know if I go to Japan I’m not going to be released, ever. So I left Germany,” he told CTV. To review, Watson was arrested in Germany on charges by Costa Rica, for actions in Guatemalan waters, potentially as just a front for the Japanese.

A month after he took to the sea, Interpol issued a red notice at Costa Rica’s behalf. They issued another red notice a month later on behalf of Japan, on charges of breaking in and damaging a whaling ship in 2010. Whether or not he would extradited to Japan before, he almost definitely would now.

The international criminal co-operation system makes any port, save for the least savory, potentially dangerous, according to Robert Currie, a law professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

“He could very well be arrested in quite a large number of countries and the countries where he couldn’t get arrested are probably countries where he wouldn’t want to go,” Currie told CTV.

And so Watson wanders the high seas, transferring from ship to ship in international waters, unable to see his daughter and grandchildren in Seattle. Like Snowden, he is a man who cannot safely enter or leave a country. That must suck. But the open seas still sound better than being stuck in an airport.

 Source: Motherboard

A man adrift: Paul Watson marks a year at sea

Canadian animal rights activist Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson gives a press conference in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany on June 13, 2012.

Canadian animal rights activist Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson gives a press conference in Frankfurt am Main, western Germany on June 13, 2012. Fredrik Von Erichsen/AFP/Getty Images

TORONTO – He’s been sailing the world’s oceans for a year to avoid arrest, has been forced to become an observer at one of his most cherished campaigns and hasn’t held his young granddaughter since she was a newborn.

But the Canadian founder of the radical environmental group Sea Shepherd remains as self-assured as ever.

“I intend to weather it out no matter what the consequences are. Whether they apprehend me or not, Sea Shepherd’s campaigns will continue to go on,” Paul Watson tells The Canadian Press in a phone interview from a ship on the Southern Ocean.

The 62-year-old — whose exact location remains a closely guarded secret — maintains he’s being unjustly hunted down by Japan and Costa Rica, who’ve laid charges that form the basis of two Interpol arrest alerts against him.

“If I get sent to Costa Rica … it’s just a conduit to Japan,” says Watson, who has disrupted the Asian country’s whale hunts for years and now believes he’s been made a target.

“I find it completely reprehensible that that’s the way the judicial system has come down.”

Despite his fiery statements, the fact remains that Watson has now been at sea for a whole year. But it’s a decision he says has helped him avoid indefinite incarceration in Japan.

“I’m not really a fugitive. It’s just that if I enter a border point then that will immediately send a message to Japan to have me arrested and then extradited,” he says.

“The oceans are the last free place on the planet.”

Watson believes Sea Shepherd’s campaigns against Japan in the waters around Antarctica have saved more than 5,000 whales since they began.

“We look at ourselves as pirates of compassion in pursuit of pirates of greed,” he says. “If the oceans die, we die, simple as that.”

The past year of Watson’s life reads like the script of a Hollywood film.

The environmentalist known for his clashes with the law was transiting through Germany last May when he was arrested at the behest of the Costa Rican government, which claims he endangered the crew of one of its fishing vessels in Guatemalan waters in 2002.

In July last year, Watson, who was under house arrest after being released on bail, says he received a tip warning he was to be extradited from Germany, not to Costa Rica, but to Japan.

“I decided I know if I go to Japan I’m not going to be released, ever. So I left Germany,” he says.

In August, Interpol issued a “red notice” for Watson at Costa Rica’s request related to his escape from Germany.

That was followed by another in September based on Japanese charges of breaking into and damaging a Japanese whaling ship during two incidents in the Antarctic Ocean in February 2010.

After fleeing Germany, Watson made his way to the Southern Ocean to disrupt the Japanese whale hunt but had to become an observer after receiving a scathing ruling from a U.S. court in February.

“You do what you have to do,” he says when asked if it was hard to hand over control to Sea Shepherd’s Australian branch, which wasn’t covered by the ruling.

The appeal court ruling last December castigated Sea Shepherd for its methods and overturned an earlier decision dismissing a lawsuit by Japanese whalers who wanted a halt to Sea Shepherd’s aggressive tactics.

Now, as his lawyers work to combat the charges against him, Watson spends his days at sea writing a book on his clashes with the Japanese and lending his input to various Sea Shepherd campaigns.

His one regret is being unable to spend time with his daughter and granddaughter.

“I’m getting used to it,” he says of his long haul at sea. “My daughter lives in Seattle and she had my granddaughter last April. The last time I saw her was the day she was born.”

The worries which keep Watson at sea are quite legitimate, says one international law expert.

“He’s not kidding. He goes ashore and he’s in danger,” says Robert Currie, a law professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax.

“He could very well be arrested in quite a large number of countries and the countries where he couldn’t get arrested are probably countries where he wouldn’t want to go.”

Currie notes, however, that Watson’s situation is the way the international criminal co-operation system is supposed to work.

“No safe haven is how the philosophy is often termed,” he says. “This is a choice he made. He could have fought that out in Germany.”

Watson could have argued his case in a German court, explains Currie, but even if he had succeeded, his win would have only secured his freedom in that country.

“He’s always been an international traveller, you can see him making that calculation,” Currie says of Watson’s decision to flee. “He’s in a very difficult situation.”

There are some, however, who admire Watson’s doggedness.

“It is an eternal consistent set of beliefs and as far as I’m concerned it’s admirable,” says Daniel Pauly, a professor at University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre.

“We need to have people who push the envelope.”

When asked about the effectiveness of Watson’s campaigns, Pauly says Sea Shepherd’s tactics create room for less aggressive conservationists to succeed.

“It makes other people look reasonable and it might be possible for other organizations to close deals that they otherwise might never get,” he says.

Meanwhile, Pauly argues Sea Shepherd’s core mandate of marine conservation is an important one.

“We must give value to the world that surrounds us. A value that is not economic,” he says. “That’s what Paul Watson forces us to do.”

Source: Global News

Editorial: SELVA-Vida Sin Fronteras

Editorial Committee

David Dunham

Arno Ambrosius

Gustavo López Ospina

Mariana Almeida

Frank Brouwer

Pieter Jan Brouwer

Assistant: Emilia Romero

The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice is associated with the International Environmental Mission, a grass roots citizens movement created by Chilean Senator Juan Pablo Letelier.

SELVA Vida Sin Fronteras acknowledges Kevin Schafer’s important contribution towards protecting the highly endangered Amazon pink fresh water dolphin. Title photographs of our “The Amazon Pink Dolphin’s Voice” were taken by Mr. Schafer. 

~ by FSVSF Admin on 19 July, 2013.

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