The Criminal Appeals Court of the Second Judicial Circuit of San José in Costa Rica ruled in favor of Captain Paul Watson, founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, dropping all charges against him and giving closure to a 17-year legal dispute and 13-year-old international arrest warrant.
The legal dispute began on April 20, 2002, when the vessel Ocean Warrior, under the command of Watson, was heading to Costa Rica. Sea Shepherd had been invited to sign a collaboration agreement for the protection of the world-renowned marine sanctuary, Cocos Island.
The year prior, Sea Shepherd provided the Cocos Island National Park Rangers with equipment and a ship to arrest and confiscate an Ecuadorian-flagged vessel, the San Jose, for illegally fishing in the protected area of the island.
In 2002, the Ocean Warrior encountered the Costa Rican vessel Varadero 1, whose crew, they asserted, were illegally finning sharks in Guatemalan territorial waters. After the Varadero 1 ignored several requests to cease the continuation of this practice, Watson received authorization from the Guatemalan naval authorities to escort the vessel to the nearest port for arrest. The incident was filmed and featured in the film Sharkwater by late Canadian director Rob Stewart. Read on.