* Head of Sea Shepherd faces extradition
* Charges arise from incident a decade ago
* Confrontation arose over practice of “shark finning” (Updates with comment from Costa Rica government)
By Elisa Oddone
May 14 (Reuters) - A marine conservationist renowned for disrupting whale hunts appeared in court in Germany on Monday, facing extradition to Costa Rica over charges arising from a confrontation with a ship involved in shark finning.
Marine activist group Sea Shepherd said Paul Watson, its 61-year-old leader, faced extradition to answer “violation of ships traffic” charges stemming from the incident a decade ago.
Sea Shepherd said the group had discovered an illegal shark finning operation, run by a Costa Rican ship called the Varadero.
The practice involves catching sharks, slicing off their fins and throwing them back into the sea, sometimes barely alive and facing almost certain death.
Watson will remain in custody until Wednesday, pending a further court decision, his lawyer, Oliver Wallasch, told Reuters television. The alleged confrontation over the finning operation took place in Guatemalan waters in 2002.
“On order of the Guatemalan authorities, Sea Shepherd instructed the crew of the Varadero to cease their shark finning activities and head back to port to be prosecuted,” the group said in a statement.
“While escorting the Varadero back to port, the tables were turned and a Guatemalan gunboat was dispatched to intercept the Sea Shepherd crew,” the statement added.
The crew of the Varadero accused the Sea Shepherd crew of trying to kill them, while the organisation said it had video to disprove the claim.
The Costa Rican Foreign Ministry said it could not comment on the case since the incident happened before the current government took office, but authorities said they have been working closely with other countries to eradicate shark finning. (Additional reporting by Isabella Cota in San Jose)