By Aaron Blevins, 7/26/2012
Sea Shepherd advocates gather at German Consulate
Representatives of Sea Shepherd and fans of the Animal Planet show “Whale Wars” protested outside the German Consulate General on Wilshire Boulevard last week, lobbying the German government to release Sea Shepherd founder, Paul Watson.
Watson had been under house arrest in Germany for a violation of ship traffic in 2002 while trying to stop a shark-finning operation. However, Watson reportedly skipped bail and fled the country this week, days after protestors demonstrated at German consulates internationally.
“It didn’t have anything to do with violations against any person,” David Hance, the Southern California outreach coordinator for Sea Shepherd, said of Watson’s arrest.
Sea Shepherd was established in 1977 to promote marine wildlife conservation. Since then, the organization has pursued its mission in Antarctica, Japan, Canada, Africa, Scandinavia, the Galápogos Islands and other locations, Hance said. Rarely does it campaign in U.S. waters.
“The laws in the U.S. tend to be a lot more restrictive and a little more enforced,” Hance added.
Through the organization’s campaigns, Watson had interfered with a commercial fishing operation off the coasts of Costa Rica in 2002, Hance said. He said the matter was investigated and dismissed.
This year, though, Costa Rica issued a warrant for Watson’s arrest, and he was stopped and detained while going through customs in Germany in May, Hance said. Watson spent two weeks in jail, and was placed on house arrest while German officials decided whether to extradite him to Costa Rica, he said.
“It’s definitely a political move,” Hance said, adding that the warrant “is motivated by greed.”
He said Sea Shepherd has cost illegal fishing operations hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the extradition is an attempt to hurt the organization financially and prevent its ocean conservation efforts.
“But, of course, they won’t,” Hance added. “This will not stop us.”
As demonstrators walked the sidewalks on Wilshire Boulevard, Hance said Sea Shepherd had an active campaign ongoing in Fiji. The group hopes to return to the oceans of Costa Rica later this year, he said.
Hance, a Redondo Beach resident, said the protest was not anti-Germany or anti-Costa Rica. The warrant is lawless, he said, and the organization is worried about Watson’s fate if he is extradited to Costa Rica.
“We believe there could be attempts made on his life,” Hance said.
While Sea Shepherd will continue to operate without Watson, the organization would like to see him returned safely.
“He’s the founder and leader of Sea Shepherd, and we all look to him for guidance,” Hance said. “He’s the propelling force behind Sea Shepherd.”
Calls to Sea Shepherd were not immediately returned by deadline.