Paul Watson -- the animal rights activist who stars on "Whale Wars" -- tells TMZ he's been FALSELY accused of sinking the famous Ady Gil anti-whaling ship ... and is now pointing the finger at the ship's captain.
We broke the story ... Watson is being sued by the ship's namesake Ady Gil -- who claims he owned the vessel and leased it to Watson's Sea Shepherd organization. In his suit, Gil says the ship suffered minor damage in a fender bender with a Japanese whaling ship in 2010 and could have been repaired -- but Watson secretly had the ship destroyed so he could blame the whalers and gain publicity for his animal rights group.
But, in a statement to TMZ, Watson denies ANY wrongdoing and says ... "It seems like Ady Gil is simply frustrated that he could not get justice from the Japanese whalers who did sink his boat and has decided to lash out at us [Watson and the Sea Shepherd Org.] instead."
Watson claims the person who should REALLY get the blame for the crash is the ship's captain -- Peter Bethune -- who "negligently stopped his ship in the path of the whaling vessel and it was cut in half."
Watson says there is video of the crash that backs up his story.
Watson adds, "Peter Bethune was never under my command and I did not give him any order and I certainly did not order him to destroy his own ship." Watson says he was 250 miles away from the boat at the time of the crash.
Watson says Bethune eventually made the decision to abandon the vessel in the open water because the damage was so extreme, he couldn't tow it to port for repairs.
Bottom line -- Watson says he shouldn't be held responsible for the fate of the boat because "the Ady Gil was not a Sea Shepherd ship and was not under my command."
Check out Watson's entire statement after the jump.
'Whale Wars' Star Sued
You Sank My Boat
... and Blamed the Japanese
1/8/2013 10:02 AM PST BY TMZ STAFF
The star of the reality show "Whale Wars" LIED about the fate of the show's most famous ship ... falsely telling the media it sank due to a crash with Japanese whalers, when in fact he secretly SABOTAGED the boat himself for publicity ... this according to a new lawsuit.
Paul Watson (above) -- founder of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society -- has been sued by Ady Gil ... who claims he owned the famous Ady Gil ship featured on "Whale Wars." Gil claims he let Watson's organization use his boat, so long as they took care of it.
In his suit, filed yesterday in L.A. County Superior Court, Gil says his vessel was rammed by a Japanese whaling ship in 2010 ... and suffered damage to the nose ... but the damage was repairable.
According to Gil, Watson saw the collision as an opportunity to spin the incident into a major publicity and money maker for his organization ... so instead of towing the boat to port for repairs, he secretly gave an order to sink the ship "under the cover of darkness" ... and blamed the Japanese.
Gil claims Watson knew that blaming the whalers for the destruction of his ship would garner sympathy for his cause and spark outrage against the whalers ... inspiring more people to donate to his anti-whaling organization.
Gil is now demanding more than $5 MILLION in damages ... claiming Watson failed in his promise to do everything possible to keep the Ady Gil from sinking.
FYI -- Watson resigned from his position as the President of the Sea Shepherd society yesterday in the wake of other legal issues facing the organization.
So far, no comment from either Watson or the Society.