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Captain Paul Watson Resurfaces to Join Crew of SSS Steve Irwin, Takes Command of Operation Zero Tolerance

FRIDAY HARBOR, Wash., Dec. 4, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Captain Paul Watson, founder and President of the global marine wildlife conservation organization, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has joined the crew of the SSS Steve Irwin and the rest of the Sea Shepherd fleet in international waters to take command of Operation Zero Tolerance, the non-profit's ninth campaign to defend at-risk whales from Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.

Fulfilling his promise from months ago that he intends to lead this campaign to defend the great whales of Antarctica, Captain Watson joined his fleet over the weekend after having been at sea since July 22, when he forfeited his bail and departed Germany. He had been held there under house arrest for 70 days, but was forced to leave to avoid extradition to Costa Rica and Japan on alleged, politically motivated charges related to pursuing illegal shark-finners in Guatemalan waters and obstructing illegal whaling in the Southern Ocean, respectively. Captain Watson has since been placed on Interpol's Red Notice list at the request of Costa Rica and Japan.

"It's wonderful to once again have the deck of the Steve Irwin under my feet," said Captain Watson upon arriving on board ship. Captain Watson, who turned 62 on December 2, remarked, "I could not think of a more wonderful birthday gift than to be at sea at the helm of my ship with my crew once more."

Operation Zero Tolerance will be Sea Shepherd's biggest campaign yet to defend at-risk whales. Comprised of a fleet of four ships, one helicopter, drones, eight small boats and a multi-national volunteer crew of 120 members from 24 nations including: Austria, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Great Britain, Ecuador, Finland, Germany, Hungary, India, Israel, Italy, Japan, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. Japan and Norway are both whaling nations.

The campaign's objective will be to intercept and intervene against the intent of the Japanese whaling fleet to murder 1,035 whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Sea Shepherd will not only endeavor to save the lives of whales, but also to cost the Japanese whaling industry in financial losses. The New York Times in October reported that last year, Sea Shepherd cost the Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR), a front for the government's illegal whaling activities, $20.5 million U.S. dollars in losses despite the fact that they received a $30 million dollar subsidy stolen from the victims of the Japanese Tsunami Relief Fund. Sea Shepherd has clearly succeeded in sinking the whaling fleet economically; now the group intends to sink them politically.

Sea Shepherd's ships and crew are currently assuming their positions. The SSS Steve Irwin, with Captain Watson once again at its helm, is at sea. The SSS Bob Barker, with Captain Peter Hammerstedt of Sweden and the USA in command, departed on November 30th from Sydney. The SSS Brigitte Bardot, captained by the legendary and world famous French sailor, Jean-Yves Terlain, is also at sea. The yet-to-be-unveiled SSS Sam Simon remains in an undisclosed location amidst much rumor and speculation with Captain Locky MacLean, a citizen of both France and Canada, in command.

During the past eight seasons, Sea Shepherd's direct-action interventions have saved the lives of more than 3,600 whales and exposed illegal Japanese whaling to the world. This year, the group's campaign is aptly dubbed Operation Zero Tolerance because it aims to intercept the whaling fleet and send them home before they have a chance to make a single kill.

Media Notes:

The specific incident in question for which Captain Watson was arrested and detained in Germany took place in Guatemalan waters, when Sea Shepherd encountered an illegal shark-finning operation run by the Costa Rican vessel, the Varadero I. On order of Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero I to cease their shark-finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted. While escorting the Varadero I back to port, the tables were turned and a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew. To avoid the Guatemalan gunboat, Sea Shepherd then set sail for Costa Rica, where the crew uncovered even more illegal shark-finning activities in the form of dried shark fins by the thousands on the roofs of industrial buildings. The case was closed for 10 years and then reopened, most likely by pressure from Japan. If Captain Watson were to go to jail in Costa Rica chances are he would not survive due to the shark-fin mafia, who have a $25,000.00 contract on Captain Watson's life.

The Interpol Red Notice from Japan was generated by the prosecutor in Japan on charges of 'Breaking into the Vessel, Damage to Property, Forcible Obstruction of Business, and Injury' pertaining to two incidents that occurred in the Antarctic Ocean in February 2010 against a Japanese whaling ship. However, the extradition 'Red Notice' from Japan is based solely on the testimony of a former Sea Shepherd associate.

According to legal counsel for Captain Watson, filing for this 'Red Notice' with Interpol on the heels of Costa Rica's request absolutely confirms Sea Shepherd's strong suspicions that, due to Sea Shepherd's sweeping success in protecting whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, Japan is also behind the Costa Rican warrant to have Captain Watson extradited.

About Captain Paul Watson

Sea Shepherd Founder and President Captain Paul Watson is a world renowned, respected leader in environmental issues. He was a co-founder of Greenpeace, has won countless awards for his decades of conservation work, and in 2000 was named one of Time Magazine's Top 20 Environmental Heroes of the 20th Century. In October, 2012, Captain Watson became only the second individual after Captain Jacques Cousteau to be honored with the Jules Verne Award, in the category of environmentalists and adventurers.

About Sea Shepherd Conservation Society

Established in 1977, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) is an international non-profit conservation organization whose mission is to end the destruction of habitat and slaughter of wildlife in the world's oceans in order to conserve and protect ecosystems and species. Sea Shepherd uses innovative direct-action tactics to investigate, document, and take action when necessary to expose and confront illegal activities on the high seas. By safeguarding the biodiversity of our delicately balanced oceanic ecosystems, Sea Shepherd works to ensure their survival for future generations. Visit www.seashepherd.org for more information.

CONTACT: Sea Shepherd U.S. Headquarters 1-360-370-5650, media@seashepherd.org Susan Hartland Administrative Director Sea Shepherd 1-425-293-4492 Lisa Agabian Sr. Media Relations Mgr. Sea Shepard 1-310-422-6106Source:Sea Shepherd Conservation Society- PST