Captain Paul Watson a Hero to Costa Rica
For more than 15 years, the corrupt government of Costa Rica has been trying to have Captain Paul Watson arrested and imprisoned for stopping Costa Rican poachers in Guatemala in partnership with the Guatamalan government. They still have an international "Red Notice" arrest warrant on Interpol for him.
Costa Rican Minister of Environment Carlos Manuel Rodríguez thinks that it is time for the Costa Rican government to drop the bogus charges and accept the Canadian-american environmentalist as the hero he is.
Captain Watson has been an environmental activist for nearly almost as many years as the environmental movement has existed. He has spoken of finding his calling going back to a sweat ceremony as part of the Oglala Sioux tribe in the early 1970s. There he had a vision of a great buffalo who told him to protect the whales and other mammals of the sea. He followed that calling during a short period of service with the Canadian Coast Guard, in which he and the crew focused on protecting marine mammals. Then in 1972 he helped found Greenpeace. There he followed through what he had begun in the Coast Guard. His earliest missions there were to stop illegal whaling and protect baby harp seals.
Watson left Greenpeace in the late 1970s and founded Sea Shepherd, his own environmental organization. Since then and for 40 years since, Captain Watson has become globally renowned for having done so much to protect so many of the oceans’ creatures, both endangered and not. In recent years he has also dedicated multiple travels to protect the Vaquita porpoise, a magnificent animal which is teetering on the edge of extinction through harmful fishing practices. It lives in Mexico’s Gulf of California, also known as the Sea of Cortez.
Though for many Watson has been seen as the oceans’ protector, it was his encounter with Costa Rica’s government in 2002 which the country’s current
Minister of Environment was thinking of when he said he hoped the country could welcome Watson back to the country as a hero. In that year, a decade and a half ago, one of Captain Watson’s Sea Shepherd vessels was patrolling in Guatemalan waters. There, Watson and his crew confronted a ship from Puntarenas, Costa Rica, for illegal shark finning, a brutal and hideous treatment of yet another misunderstood and glorious ocean dweller.
The poachers claim that Sea Shepherd had tried to murder them and filed fradulent complaints in Costa Rican court against Watson and his crew. The initial charges were dropped by the goverment when it was clear from film footage of the encounter that Watson and crew had done nothing wrong. Not long after the first charges were dismissed, charges of 8 counts of assault were filed and that case too was dismissed after the evidence was again presented.
About that time it was made clear that if Sea Shepherd paid the poachers $250,000 the matter could be settled. After Sea Shepherd refused to pay the bribes the poachers offered a $25,000 bounty for the head of Capt. Watson, more than enough incentive for him to be killed anywhere in many countries and especially in Costa Rica where one can get even a policeman to bump someone off for a few hundred dollars.
Later, the Costa Rican government quietly issued an arrest warrant again but this time it was for "danger of shipwreck and the first time that Capt. Watson heard of it was when he was arrested on a Red Notice in Germany. The Germans temporarily released Capt. Watson and he fled Germany and spent the next 17 months at sea and returned to the U.S. only after it agreed to ignore the Red Notice.
The bogus charges have stuck with Watson and his group now for over those 15 years afterwards. This is despite Watson’s people having already reached out to the poachers to settle in September 2016 in an out of court settlement. Both sides then attempted to bring that settlement into Criminal Court to be accepted, and to have the long-standing charges against the group dropped. This was unfortunately not acceptable to the court, since the “danger of shipwreck” is not just a civil infraction under Costa Rican law. It is instead a crime.
In the interview with Costa Rica’s Minister of Environment, he called Watson a “conservation hero” despite the legal case still hanging over the Captain for all these years. He also called for reconsideration of Watson’s situation, saying that, “This criminal case is more than 10 years old and is not yet resolved, you have this man in legal uncertainty even with a warrant against him. This seems like a real injustice to me, since there has been a conciliation between Captain Paul Watson and the fishermen that generated the conflict which led to this criminal case.”
Minister Rodriguez went to say that he considered “Captain Watson as a hero for conservation.” He said Watson was “one of those special people we have on the planet who still want to make positive changes so that human beings are more rational in the management and use of natural resources. I hope that this conciliation he had with the fishermen will help to close this chapter and that the judicial process will be completed, because we would love to invite and receive Captain Watson as he deserves – a hero for the protection of the oceans and sea animals.”
Minister Rodriguez is part of a new government in Costa Rica, one that truly celebrates the environment and is committed to be a proper steward for it.
When Captain Paul Watson heard the Minister’s comments about him, he said, “This statement by the new Minister of the Environment …heralds a new chapter for conservation in Costa Rica. At last we now have a government that gets it, a government that will address conservation issues both aggressively and positively. This has never been about me, it has been about what I represent.”
Watson’s lawyer in Costa Rica, Abraham Stern, emboldened by the new interview comments, filed a complaint Thursday before the Public Ministry against ten Costa Rican judges who have been adversaries to Watson’s group in the criminal proceedings of the past. Stern called attention first to the settlement agreement already in place with the fisherfolk as of 2016. The lawyer has also filed a “denunciation of malfeasance”, claiming the action of the judges was inappropriate anyway because the Sea Shepherd vessels were being charged for alleged crimes in Guatemalan waters, and not those where Costa Rican law had any standing.
Some believe that that Costa Rica has persisted in its false claims against Watson due to incentives from Japan, which persists in its own fraudulent charges against Watson and Interpol Red Notice for the entirely fraudulent and disproven claims of "breaking into the vessel, damage to property, forcible obstruction of business, injury."
Japan has been repeatedly shamed publicly by Sea Sheperd and exposed for its killing of whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and dolphins in Japan.
In April this year Costa Rica welcomed Japan's State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Masahisa Sato, and initiated negotiations for a generous bilateral investment treaty with Japan.
Japan is the world's second largest donor of aid and frequently uses its aid for political leverage and to gain special treatment for its favored corporations and the Yakuza criminal mafia which is deeply involved in Japan's whaling industry and integrated with Japan's government.
Perhaps with the help of the new Minister of Environment, Captain Paul Watson may yet finally shed Costa Rica's fraudulent charges from the past. It could also make possible a badly needed partnership between the new environmental leadership in charge in Costa Rica–and the environmental stewards of Sea Shepherd.
Poachers still operate with impunity in Costa Rica and the government won't allocate the resources to enforce the laws or tackle the corruption that supports the poaching. Sea Shepherd could make a huge difference in Costa Rica, as it has done in many other countries.
Japanese whaler Shonan Maru No. 2 ramming Sea Shepherd's ship Bob Barker. Photo © Sea Shepherd
High speed trimiran MY Ady Gil after being run over by the Shonan Maru No. 2 on 6 January 2010. The boat sank the next day after salvage attempts were unsuccessful. The Ady Gil was captained by Peter James Bethune who boarded Shonan Maru No. 2 a month later, was detained and taken to Tokyo where he was charged with boarding a vessel without due cause, illegal possession of a knife, destruction of property, assault and obstruction of business—for which he faced up to 15 years in prison. Bethune was released in exchange for claiming that Capt. Paul Watson had asked him to board the Shonan Maru No. 2 despite Watson being recorded on video telling him not to. Bethune rescinded the claim after he was released and left Japan. Japan charged Capt. Watson for Bethune's trespass and issued an international arrest warrant that Interpol continues to support.