'Whale Wars' star Paul Watson skips bail, court seeks his extradition

Paul Watson, pictured here in 2011, was detained at Frankfurt airport on May 13.

Story highlights

  • Frankfurt court reactivates request to extradite him to Costa Rica
  • Watson stopped reporting to authorities and skipped bail
  • Court says he has "shown by fleeing that the trust placed in him was not justified"
  • Watson is wanted in Costa Rica after battling shark fin poachers, conservation group says

A German court Wednesday reactivated a request to extradite controversial conservationist and "Whale Wars" star Paul Watson to Costa Rica after Watson's lawyer told the court he had skipped bail.

German authorities detained Watson at Frankfurt airport on May 13 on an international arrest warrant issued by Costa Rica, which accuses him of endangering a fishing vessel off the coast of Guatemala in 2002.

Watson's attempts to disrupt Japanese whalers at sea gained him fame through Animal Planet's "Whale Wars" TV show.

Video: South Korea back on the whaling hunt?

The Higher Regional Court in Frankfurt ordered him detained but freed him on a bail of 250,000 euros (about $302,000), according to a court news release, but required him to report regularly to authorities. He stopped doing so Sunday, the court said.

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Watson has "shown by fleeing that the trust placed in him was not justified," the court said, explaining why the extradition orders were reinstated.

The Frankfurt court had originally given Costa Rica 90 days to make its case before deciding whether to extradite him.

Video: Debate over killer whales in captivity

Watson, leader of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has defended his actions against the Costa Rican vessel, saying "I had to take action with my crew a decade ago to protect hundreds of sharks, and of course, those shark poachers have very powerful allies in government and other places."

The U.S.-based Sea Shepherd has denied wrongdoing in the Costa Rica case and urged supporters through its website and social media to write to German officials, arguing that the charges have less to do with law than with Watson's anti-conservationist enemies and that it doubts he would get a fair trial.

Opinion: Even after attacks, sharks should be protected

In the 2002 incident, Sea Shepherd ship operations officer Peter Hammarstedt said, the Ocean Warrior found the Costa Rican crew killing sharks for their fins in Guatemalan waters. It initially had permission from Guatemalan authorities to stop it and tow the vessel into port, he said.

The Ocean Warrior used water cannons on the fishing vessel, but "there were no injuries and no physical damage to any ship," Hammarstedt said.

The Ocean Warrior did stop the ship, but Guatemalan authorities eventually asked Watson to release it, Hammarstedt said.

The confrontation is detailed in part of a 2007 documentary, "Sharkwater," Hammarstedt said.

Shark finning is the practice of cutting the fins off sharks and throwing the sharks back into the sea, where they die. The fins are used for expensive soup, mostly in China.

Video: China cracks down on shark fin soup

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