Sea Shepherd captain hauls anchor, skips bail

Paul Watson

(CBS/AP) Environmental activist Paul Watson was arrested in Germany, because of charges originating in Costa Rica, and was expected to be extradited to Japan. Watson, the head of controversial activist group Sea Shepherd, faced a variety of charges of obstructing commercial fishing operations. Instead, the captain has disappeared, leaving the governments of three different nations adrift.

The group says it has "reason to believe from a reliable source that, once in Costa Rica, the Japanese government may have sought extradition of Captain Watson to Japan to answer charges related to obstructing their illegal whaling activities in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary."

The 61-year-old Canadian was first arrested May 13 at Frankfurt Airport on a Costa Rican warrant that claimed he had endangered the crew of a fishing vessel a decade ago. Watson was released days later on a $320,000 bond and ordered to report regularly to authorities while Costa Rica's extradition request was considered.

"His attorney now says that his client informed him by telephone that he has left Germany for an unknown destination," the Hesse regional court in a statement, noting that Watson failed to report to authorities since Sunday.

Watson's German attorney didn't respond to repeated telephone messages Wednesday. A spokeswoman for Sea Shepherd in the United States declined immediately to comment.

Shortly after his arrest in May Sea Shepherd issued a statement saying Watson was filming a documentary at the time of the alleged incident, which took place in Guatemalan waters in 2002. The U.S.-based group said it encountered an illegal shark finning operation run by a Costa Rican ship, the Varadero, and told the crew to stop and head to port to be prosecuted. The crew accused Sea Shepherd of trying to kill them by ramming their ship.

Watson has a history of confrontations with whalers and fishermen.

He left Greenpeace in 1977 to set up the more action-oriented Sea Shepherd. The group has waged aggressive campaigns to protect whales, dolphins and other marine animals, prompting Japanese officials to labels its member terrorists and seek Watson's arrest for allegedly masterminding violent protests.