Paul Watson, president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, is pictured in this photo by The Canadian Press/The Associated Press
FRANKFURT, Germany — The Canadian founder of an environmental activist group known for its confrontations with whalers and fishermen has been arrested in Germany for extradition to Costa Rica, where he is wanted for allegedly endangering a fishing boat in 2002, German prosecutors said Monday.
Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was arrested Sunday at Frankfurt Airport on an international arrest warrant issued by Costa Rica, a spokesman for the local prosecutors’ office said.
“He is alleged to have used a ship to intimidate another vessel and put its crew at risk in 2002,” said the spokesman, Guenter Wittig.
Watson is currently in temporary custody and a judge will decide later whether to formally place him in detention pending extradition, Wittig said.
Sea Shepherd said Watson was filming a documentary at the time of the alleged incident.
It took place in Guatemalan waters, when the U.S.-based group said it encountered an illegal shark finning operation run by a Costa Rican ship, the Varadero.
Sea Shepherd said in a statement Sunday that it told the Varadero’s crew to stop and head to port to be prosecuted. The crew accused Sea Shepherd of trying to kill them.
Watson tweeted late Sunday: “I am currently being held in Frankfurt on charges from Costa Rica. Court appearance in the morning.” But there was no indication when that would take place.
The group was formed in 1977 and has had a controversial history.
It sends vessels to confront the Japanese fleet each year, trying to block them from firing harpoons at whales.
Its tactics have drawn praise from supporters and vehement attacks from critics.
According to Sea Shepherd, Watson is being assisted in jail by European Parliament vice-president Daniel Cohn Bendit and European deputy Jose Bove.
“Our hope is that these two honourable gentlemen can set Captain Watson free before this nonsense goes any further,” Sea Shepherd said.
— With files from The Canadian Press.