High Seas. High Stakes. High Crimes.

Introducing: The Outlaw Ocean Podcast

Created and produced by The Outlaw Ocean Project. From CBC Podcasts and the L.A. Times.

There are few remaining frontiers on our planet. 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.

The Outlaw Ocean Podcast is a seven-part series that explores a gritty and lawless realm rarely seen, populated by 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.

Relying on more than eight years of reporting on all seven oceans and in more than three dozen countries, the podcast brings all of The Outlaw Ocean Project's journalism together as an immersive podcast series.

  1. The Murder Video, episode 1 of The Outlaw Ocean podcast by Ian Urbina
    Episode 1

    The Murder Video

    An eight-year investigation of a slow-motion slaughter caught on camera and the seedy world of floating armories populated by heavily-armed mercenaries.

    Episode notes

    Crimes like this don't often happen on land. A 10-minute slow-motion slaughter, captured by a cell phone camera, of a group of unarmed men at sea, possibly 15 of them, killed one by one by a semiautomatic weapon after which the culprits pose for celebratory selfies. The shocking footage is made public and yet no government is willing to investigate, much less prosecute the murderers. This episode traces a tireless journalistic investigation of a shocking video that, after eight years, finally resulted in the 26-year conviction of the ship captain who ordered the cold-blooded killing. Looking for answers, this reporting takes us to the bizarre world of floating armories, which are part bunkhouse, part weapons depot, where maritime mercenaries wait for their next ship deployment. For broader context, the story explores the explosion of violence on the high seas, how Somali piracy is often used as a pretext for bloodletting by private security guards, and the reasons that offshore crime often happens with impunity.

    Guest Interviews

    • Duncan CopelandExecutive Director of Trygg Mat Tracking
    • Kevin ThompsonPrivate Maritime Security Guard
  2. The Dark Fleet, episode 2 of The Outlaw Ocean podcast by Ian Urbina
    Episode 2

    The Dark Fleet

    The longest law enforcement chase in nautical history and, in North Korean waters, the world's largest fleet of illegal fishing vessels.

    Episode notes

    It would be hard to believe if it hadn't actually happened. The longest law enforcement chase in nautical history, spanning 110 days and 10,000 miles, featuring a bunch of vigilantes pursuing Interpol’s most wanted illegal fishing ship. Slaloming around icebergs in a deadly glacier field, cutting through a category five storm, this chase only ended when one of the ships sank. To discuss why illegal fishing is so rampant and unchecked, this episode takes us from the capture of the world’s most notorious scofflaw vessel in African waters to the seas off the coast of North Korea where we discover the planet’s largest illegal fishing fleet.

    Guest Interviews

    • Tony LongCEO of Global Fishing Watch
  3. Slavery at Sea, episode 3 of The Outlaw Ocean podcast by Ian Urbina
    Episode 3

    Slavery at Sea

    The global plight of sea slavery and the harrowing story of Lang Long, a victim of the nightmarish world of debt bondage in the Thai fleet.

    Episode notes

    Ian’s account of his groundbreaking reporting on slavery in the South China Sea, the first time a reporter ever made it onboard a Thai distant-water vessel that used enslaved labor. Found shackled by the neck as part of the crew on a dilapidated fishing vessel, Lang Long was a victim of the nightmarish world of debt bondage. A global scourge, sea slavery is something most people do not realize exists. This episode explains how it happens, taking us for the first time ever on board one such roach- and rat-infested ship on the South China Sea, a fishing vessel crewed by 40 Cambodian boys. The episode explains how overfishing has given rise to trans-shipment, fish-laundering and a prevalence of abuse that companies and governments have a tough time countering or tracking.

    Guest Interviews

    • Shannon ServiceDirector of “Ghost Fleet”
    • Daniel MurphyIndependent Consultant
  4. From the Sea, Freedom, episode 4 of The Outlaw Ocean podcast by Ian Urbina
    Episode 4

    From the Sea, Freedom

    An exploration of sea mavericks, from a libertarian who created a micronation at sea to a gynecologist who operates a clandestine medical ship providing abortion access to women.

    Episode notes

    The sea has always been a metaphor for freedom – an escape from governments, laws and other people. This episode takes us off the coast of England to Sealand, a rogue “micronation” meant to embody this very freedom, which was founded on an abandoned British anti-aircraft platform in 1967. “From the Sea, Freedom” explores the world of libertarian-minded endeavors at sea, where renegades and mavericks of all sorts seek to escape the laws of land-bound nation-states. The reporting also visits the high seas near Mexico to meet other characters who leverage the freedom and legal gray areas found offshore. We travel with Rebecca Gomperts, the founder of Women on Waves, a group that provides abortion access for women who live in countries where it is restricted. Secretly carrying several Mexican women beyond national waters, Rebecca uses a loophole in maritime law to legally administer pills that will end their pregnancies.

    Guest Interviews

    • Rebecca GompertsFounder of Women on Waves
  5. Waves of Extraction, episode 5 of The Outlaw Ocean podcast by Ian Urbina
    Episode 5

    Waves of Extraction

    A trip to Gambia to learn how fishmeal is meant to slow the depletion of fish from the seas but is actually accelerating the problem.

    Episode notes

    The oceans are running out of fish. To slow down that process, environmentalists pushed for fish farming, otherwise known as aquaculture. But the industry became too big and too hungry, and, to fatten the farmed fish faster, it started feeding them high-protein pellets called fishmeal, made from massive amounts of fish caught at sea. Now, more than 30 percent of all marine life pulled from the sea goes to feed other onland fish. To explore this upside-down situation, we travel to the West African country of Gambia for an offshore patrol where hundreds of Chinese and other fishing boats trawl for fishmeal production, cratering the local food source and polluting the coastline.

    Guest Interviews

    • Dr. Daniel PaulyMarine Biologist
  6. The Magic Pipe, episode 6 of The Outlaw Ocean podcast by Ian Urbina
    Episode 6

    The Magic Pipe

    Ships intentionally dump more oil into the oceans every three years than the amount spilled in the BP and Exxon Valdez accidents combined.

    Episode notes

    When a ship inadvertently spills oil, it’s big news. But every three years, ships intentionally dump more oil than the Exxon Valdez and BP spills combined. This episode highlights a vexing and woefully under-discussed problem made possible by corrupt ship captains who use a so-called “Magic Pipe” to dump oil discreetly under the water line rather than dispose of it onland, as is legally required. To learn about this problem, the episode foregrounds the case of Carnival’s Caribbean Princess cruise ship, which used such a pipe and was caught, convicted, and hit with the biggest fine in history. This case is set in a broader context of other forms of at-sea dumping such as plastic pollution, and highlights how the sea has long (and perilously) been viewed as a bottomless trash can.

    Guest Interviews

    • Annie LeonardCEO of Greenpeace, Creator of “The Story of Plastic”
    • Richard UdellDOJ Prosecutor on the Caribbean Princess Case
  7. The Spell of the Sea, episode 7 of The Outlaw Ocean podcast by Ian Urbina
    Episode 7

    The Spell of the Sea

    “The ocean is outlaw not because it is inherently good or bad but because it is a void, like silence is to sound or boredom is to activity.”

    Episode notes

    Covering two-thirds of the planet, the sea is a workplace for more than 50 million people. The oceans produce half the air we breathe, and more than 80 percent of the products we consume are transported by sea. Aside from being vital, the oceans are also distinctly fascinating for the universality and peculiarity of mariner culture. This epilogue episode shares a more personal and behind-the-scenes account of a body of reporting trips mostly done at sea — and how this experience can affect a person, for better and worse. It discusses the importance of investigative reporting in a time of clickbait journalism and it makes an argument for immersive storytelling in our era of information overload. Lastly, the episode suggests that if The Outlaw Ocean Project's reporting is to offer any insight about human nature, it tells us about the thin line between civilization and the lack of it — and why better and more governance is essential to the future of our species and the planet.

    Guest Interviews

    • Bren SmithFisherman and Founder of Greenwave