Pirate captain ...  Paul Watson, founder  of  environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Red Notice ... Paul Watson, founder of environmental group the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Photo: AP

Global police agency Interpol has issued a Red Notice seeking the arrest of bail-skipping Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson.

Interpol said the request to its member countries, which include Australia, was based on a warrant issued by Costa Rican authorities over navigation charges laid in 2002.

Mr Watson, 61, was detained in Germany for the Costa Rican case. He jumped bail on July 22 after learning Japan was seeking his extradition over the conflict between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic.

Interpol, based in Lyon, France, has until now resisted requests for the Red Notice to be issued against the hardline conservationist.

"Based on Mr Watson's failure to satisfy the bail conditions set by the German court, and the additional information provided by Costa Rica concerning the underlying charges, it was concluded that a Red Notice could be issued in compliance with Interpol's Constitution and rules," the agency said.

It said the Red Notice did not constitute an arrest warrant.

"Each of Interpol's 190 member countries must apply their national laws and standards in determining whether it may detain or arrest the wanted person," it said.

In the last message sent through Sea Shepherd a fortnight ago, Mr Watson indicated that he may have been at sea.

"I am presently in a place on this planet where I feel comfortable, a safe place far away from the scheming nations who have turned a blind eye to the exploitation of our oceans," he said.

He said Sea Shepherd would proceed with plans to mount its ninth Antarctic campaign if Japan went south again this summer.