The Outlaw Ocean Project


Journeys across the last untamed frontier.
A best selling work by Ian Urbina.

There are few remaining frontiers on our planet. But perhaps the wildest, and least understood, are the world’s oceans: too big to police, and under no clear international authority, these immense regions of treacherous water play host to rampant criminality and exploitation.

Traffickers and smugglers, pirates and mercenaries, wreck thieves and repo men, vigilante conservationists and elusive poachers, seabound abortion providers, clandestine oil-dumpers, shackled slaves and cast-adrift stowaways — drawing on five years of perilous and intrepid reporting, often hundreds of miles from shore, Ian Urbina introduces us to the inhabitants of this hidden world. Through their stories of astonishing courage and brutality, survival and tragedy, he uncovers a globe-spanning network of crime and exploitation that emanates from the fishing, oil and shipping industries, and on which the world’s economies rely. 

Both a gripping adventure story and a stunning exposé, this unique work of reportage brings fully into view for the first time the disturbing reality of a floating world that connects us all, a place where anyone can do anything because no one is watching.

Praise for The Outlaw Ocean

The Pulitzer Prize winner reveals how the sea is a no man's land, where crime and impunity go hand in hand, culminating in humanitarian and environmental tragedies.

O Globo

The book is amazing insofar as the author, in writing it, actually survived to write it...There is a larger dynamic that exists in keeping people in brutal jobs. Urbina’s book leaves no doubt that fishing is one of those jobs...The crisis we are having is fundamentally one of memetics – the old models of how we understand things simply are failing right and left. And change in the physical world will only happen once we change first our minds.

Chuck Pezeshki

Two thirds of the world is covered in ocean. We don’t think about some of the things that go on outside of the reach of the law and some of the regulations that exist. There’s a lot of bad things but there’s a lot of possibilities, especially as we think about issues like the climate, issues like the future of what it is to work. Anyway, really interesting book.

Pete Buttigieg

Thanks to five years of journalistic research, covering hundreds of nautical miles in the most diverse and sometimes dangerous situations, Urbina shows with rigor and brilliance what happens in our oceans and seas.

Anika Entre Libros

It is a book that describes the activities of the giant Japanese whalers, authentic floating slaughterhouses qualified as 'scientific' ships by the Japanese authorities and destined to introduce whales in cans, as well as the tricks of merchant ships and luxury cruise ships to pollute the sea with their waste. And all this, more often than not, without any consequences.

El Salto

The book is pure investigative journalism, hence its direct, raw narrative, without subterfuge or unnecessary detours. (...) But the most important and interesting thing in this book is what it tells, which is none other than the most absolute impunity that exists in the seas of this planet in which companies of different nature act without ethics or scruples in favor of economic benefit.

Estado Critico

You have to read it. You will never see a hake with the same eyes or a sunset with the same feeling again. Through his brutal stories, Ian Urbina unravels a dark global web of crime and exploitation emanating from the fishing, oil and shipping industries on which the world's economies depend.

20 Minutos

In his most recent book, 'The Outlaw Ocean,' New York Times reporter, Ian Urbina..delves into the corruption and physical and psychological abuse..of the men and women enslaved by illegal fishing...[This] monumental investigative journalism..evokes a sensation of a cinematographic journey...[It's] an extraordinary book.

Foro Javeriano

One of the best Ocean books of all time.

Book Authority

These chapters are vibrant as individual stories, but as a collection they’re transcendent, rendering a complex portrait of an unseen and disturbing world. Urbina pursues a depth of reportage that’s rare because of the guts and diligence it requires...The result is not just a fascinating read, but a truly important document...a master class in journalism.

The New York Times Book Review

That Urbina has been able to pluck these people out of the vast blue expanse that surrounds them and locate them, both on the map and in our minds, at least for a moment, is an impressive feat of reporting…A lesser writer might have been daunted by the technicalities. But Urbina deftly reveals complicated ideas through his stories, whether he’s exploring how lacunas in Thai labor law leave sea slaves vulnerable or depicting firsthand how flags of convenience meant to track ships can be used to make them disappear.

The Washington Post

For anyone who is serious about the ocean, environmental conservation, social justice, equity and equality on the high seas, *The Outlaw Ocean* is a must read...simultaneously so gripping we couldn’t put it down and incredibly difficult to read...But sharing these stories is the key to inspiring action for a better world...Despite Urbina’s clear and concise framing of these myriad issues facing our high seas, readers will find it challenging to not empathize with so many of the real people featured in these stories, and to not feel overwhelmed by the darkness shrouding the high seas. But sharing these stories is the key to inspiring action for a better world.

Ocean Wise

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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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