CORRECTED-Canadian sea activist facing charge vows to fight on

Mon May 21, 2012 12:44pm EDT

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(Fixes nationality of Watson in headline)

BERLIN May 21 (Reuters) - Renowned marine conservationist Paul Watson, who is fighting extradition from Germany to Costa Rica over a 2002 campaign against shark finning, vowed on Monday that his fleet would head to the Antarctic without him to fight whaling.

Watson, who was arrested eight days ago at Frankfurt airport, was freed on bail in Germany of 250,000 euros ($319,200)but must not leave the country.

His arrest, on a warrant from Costa Rican authorities, took his Sea Shepherd campaign group, famous for its disruption of whaling, by surprise.

"This is not about me at all", Watson told Reuters television on Monday.

"This is about the millions of sharks killed every year illegally and I am here because we saved hundreds of them 10 years ago".

The charges stem from a confrontation on the high seas in 2002 between Watson's ship and a ship involved in illegal shark finning.

The practice involves catching sharks, slicing off their fins and throwing them back into the sea, sometimes barely alive, where they face almost certain death.

Watson dismissed the case as an "inconvenience" and said his ships would soon "stop the illegal activities of whale-hunting fleets once again".

Costa Rican authorities have three months to formalise their extradition request to Germany. The final decision lies with the German Ministry of Justice, as there is no extradition treaty between Germany and Costa Rica.

A legal official said the German government might decide not to extradite the marine conservationist for political reasons.

Costa Rican President Laura Chincilla is due to visit Germany on Tuesday and hold talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel. ($1 = 0.7832 euros) (Reporting By Elisa Oddone; Editing by Michael Roddy)

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