The Outlaw Ocean Project

The Deadly Secret of China’s Invisible Armada

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This joint investigation published by The Outlaw Ocean Project and NBC News reveals the world’s largest fleet of illegal fishing boats ever discovered that has been operating invisibly in North Korean waters in clear violation of UN sanctions. The discovery of this fleet — more than 900 Chinese squid vessels — partially explains why in the past 5 years more than 500 ships, many of them carrying the dead bodies of North Korea fishermen, have washed ashore along the coast of Japan. The story took over a year and a half to report and required me and my team to buy our way onto a squid vessel off the coast of Korea so as to report at sea.

The Outlaw Ocean Project also decided to do something very different in how we disseminated this journalism. One of the limitations of the traditional model used especially by legacy news outlets, is that worthy investigative stories are typically seen by only a small fraction of the public because these stories get published in just one outlet and typically in just one language. Part of what The Outlaw Ocean Project seeks to do is not just produce polished narrative investigative journalism but also convert that journalism into new forms in order to reach new audiences.

Apart from the original NBC investigation, this story was re-published in over 30 international news outlets within 25 countries, translated into more than 12 languages, and had a readership of millions.  This readership speaks to the new model of journalism that The Outlaw Ocean Project is trying to leverage.

We built a spreadsheet with the best available intelligence with the vessels we spotted in this investigation that are believed to be in violation of UN sanctions. For users interested in learning more, view the spreadsheet here

More importantly, though, is the journalism itself. Give the story a read in any of the respective venues and languages below. You can also listen below.

The reporting for this story was published in outlets around the world.

  • 31News Outlets
  • 26Countries
  • 13Languages

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Reporting of this type is rare, expensive and urgently needed. The Outlaw Ocean Project is a non-profit organization solely dedicated to publishing more of these stories. Please consider supporting the work by donating to the non-profit or subscribing to our newsletter on Substack.

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