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The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last…
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The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier (2019. Auflage)

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"A riveting, terrifying, thrilling story of a netherworld that few people know about, and fewer will ever see . . . The soul of this book is as wild as the ocean itself." --Susan Casey, best-selling author of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean An adrenaline-fueled tour of a vast, lawless and rampantly criminal world that few have ever seen: the high seas. 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.… (mehr)
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Titel:The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier
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Info:Knopf Publishing Group (2019), 560 pages
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The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier von Ian Urbina

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The author of "The Outlaw Ocean", Ian Urbina, spent four or five years travelling around the world as a NY Times investigative reporter, investigating human rights violations, human trafficking, illegal fishing, and any number of lawless activities which occur with regularity on the high seas. His accounts are first-hand, having gained access to ships of all sizes and types to document his stories.

Urbina takes us to places few of us will ever experience. We all understand that except for failed states, nations have laws which specify what type(s) of activities are considered illegal, at least when occurring within their National borders. But once offshore by more than 12 miles, determining what laws apply, if any, what activities are legal or illegal, who has jurisdiction, and who is willing to prosecute illegal activities is an uncertainty. And that's the side of the world which Urbina exposes the reader to in "The Outlaw Sea". Each chapter in his book uncovers yet another corrupt activity taking place on the oceans, activities which few of us have ever been made aware of.

Among the worst cases he's investigated and documents are the extreme harsh conditions on fishing boats. The UN estimates that fishing fleets worldwide are shorthanded by over 50,000 men, and too often, men are illegally "shanghaied" or tricked into years of servitude serving about these fleets. Terms such as kidnapping, slavery, indentured servitude, and piracy were archaic, to me, vestiges of the past, and of little relevance to modern times, or so I thought until reading this book. Previously, when I heard the term "human trafficking", I imagined it involved women being exploited for work in menial jobs or in the sex trade. But Urbina describes how men, especially from south Asian countries, are being tricked into working on boats by being promised good jobs, only to find that none of the promised financial rewards are given. Often, they're confined to the fishing boats for years, unable to escape, and rarely even seeing land.

Urbina uncovers how Philippine peasants have been conned into taking jobs on fishing boats, promised decent wages, then cheated into accepting much less pay (if paid at all), made to pay for their food, expenses, and travel. They also may be forced to work 18 hrs/day, 6 days a week, all while being abused by captain(s), beaten, forced into sexual acts, etc. When extremely shorthanded, on-shore agents may even drug and kidnap men, sell them to boat captains, where they're made to work at sea under the harshest of conditions. I found it hard to believe how many men have been tricked or forced into working on south Asian fishing boats, underpaid, mistreated, beaten, and cheated out of wages on many of these fishing fleets.

Another area Urbina documents is the widespread practice of illegal fishing and poaching. In most cases, the illegal fishing is deliberate, since there's little accountability for breaking the laws, and huge profits to be made. But Urbina also explain that in a few cases, because of border disputes between nations, the international boundaries at sea are in dispute and even harder to define, and can be uncertain in whose waters the boats are actually working.

Especially troubling are cases Urbina uncovers involving illegal dumping into the oceans. This is often dumping of trash and oily discharges by small vessels, but can equally occur on the largest cruise line corporations. Carnival Lines has had a long history of dumping plastic trash and oily discharge from its ships, with violations dating back to 1993. Urbina also points out that Princess Cruise Lines has paid $40 million over other deliberate acts of pollution. Other cases include ocean dumping of Nuclear waste, including Reactors still containing fuel, which had been done by the USSR, Great Britain, and U.S.

Other stories just give examples of how people can bend rules to their own benefit. Perhaps the strangest is his story of the Principality of Sealand. In this case, a family took over an abandoned offshore platform in the North Sea, originally built as an anti-aircraft gun platform during World War II, and declared it to now be an independent State called Sealand. The family adopted a constitution, issue passports, etc., and there is no clear international authority to force them out. He also has traveled with a group called Women on Waves, who visit various countries where abortion is illegal, and then offer to take pregnant women beyond the countries 12-mile limit to perform an abortion - something which would be illegal if done ashore.

He also has a chapter which discusses shipboard stowaways and how they're dealt with when discovered. Sometimes they're simply put overboard at sea, to fend for themselves and possibly die. Other times, if a stowaway is not thrown off the ship at sea, upon making it to the next port of call, he may be able to delay the ship in port while dealing with legalities. There's also a chapter which describes how ships can be stolen and illegally re-named, and another with how ships have been "liberated" by adventurers after unscrupulous port authorities have held ships in port for extortion. He also describes how commonly accepted practices and laws can be abused by re-registering ships in other nations, e.g., flying flags of convenience.

With so many abuses, and so little enforcement or oversight of these activities, prospects for improvements seem far in the future. Except for the author's investigative reporting, it seems as if no significant authority is too concerned with protecting workers, or ensuring that fish caught for our consumption are done ethically and sustainably. Urbina does leave one with some hope in closing, describing Organizations now working to fight these problems / injustices. The Environmental Justice Foundation, Human Rights Watch, Greenpeace, and International Labor Rights Forum publish investigative reports about labor abuses on fishing ships. Organizations such as Stellar Maris and Missions to Seafarers are among other organizations working to protect mariners

Urbina's book points out that there's clearly a need more marine protected areas, to scale back size of global fishing fleets, to tighten quotas on the number of fish that can be pulled from the water, and removing unfair Gov't subsidies which artificially make seafood too cheap. All these efforts need Government cooperation and commitment. The Global sea food industry is just beginning to take suitable measures to address concerns dealing with fish stocks. Because pirate fishing boats are responsible for over 20% of the wild caught seafood imported into the U.S., there are movements to make seafood more traceable. For example, technology exists to better track fish from bait to plate. Governments and large sellers are considering mandating DNA field kits to identify fish and combat problem of counterfeit fish. Restaurants like Red Lobster, and Grocers like Albertson's and Target are turning to non-profits like FishWise , a Santa Cruz, CA organization promoting fish sustainability, to ensure their fish are certified. Other for-profit organizations like SES Global and Trace Register also perform supply chain audits. Greenpeace's Carting Away the Oceans report card ranks supermarkets based on ethical purchasing decisions and supply chain transparency, and fishery- to- shelf traceability. In 2018, 90% of the supermarket chains had a passing grade, but only four: Whole Foods, Hy-Vee, Aldi, and Target, received the highest Green sustainability scores. Most, like Costo, Kroeger, Wallmart, etc., fell somewhere on the middle of the scale.

If, after reading this book, Urbina informs us that individuals interested in ethical seafood are encouraged to consult the FishWise website or one a number of other sources he identifies to learn more. For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium produces seafood report cards which rank fish from an environmental perspective. Recently, the Monterey Aquarium included human rights into the ratings, joining Liberty Asia and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership to produce a seafood slavery risk tool which is a public database which can be searched by species or region. The WWF also publishes a useful Country by country guide on sustainable seafood.

One bright spot noted after reading the book - On May 11, 2021, U.S. Congressmen Jared Huffman (D-CA) and Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) introduced the Illegal Fishing and Forced Labor Prevention Act, which aims to ensure that imported seafood in U.S. markets was not caught using forced labor or include illegal, unreported, or unregulated (IUU) fish. After reading this book, it's good to see that The House Natural Resources Committee and its Subcommittee on Water, Oceans, and Wildlife are working in a bipartisan way to combat IUU fishing and expand transparency across the seafood supply chain. ( )
  rsutto22 | Jul 15, 2021 |
The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier is the culmination of Ian Urbina's four years of New York Times investigative journalism chronicling piracy, slavery, poaching, rape, murder, and general lawlessness on the world's oceans. Much (though not all) of the book focuses on fishing and the fisherman caught up in this world, many of them against their will.

As the title notes, the oceans' international waters are some of the last places on earth where the law doesn't quite reach. Urbina details some of the reasons why, and tells some disturbing stories of lawlessness in the open waters. Each chapter highlights a different facet of the Outlaw Ocean. The common theme running through almost all of it is exploitation - of people, of fish and whales and coral, and other ocean wildlife, and of the ocean itself.

At places in the book Urbina also discusses some of the efforts being made to punish the guilty and to correct the incentives that fuel the exploitation and lead to outlaw behavior. He helps us understand that these efforts currently pale in comparison to the problem. In the Appendix to the book there are some details about what we as individuals can do, though the author admits the actions available to individuals are limited.

I found this book compelling, and hard to put down. If you have an interest in better understanding how your seafood gets to your table and knowing what's behind the headlines you may have seen highlighting problems on the high seas, by all means read this book. ( )
  stevesbookstuff | Feb 7, 2021 |
Very well written with a diversity of stories that holds your attention. It really does show what a wild, wild, west that it is once you enter international waters. I might put that dream of sailing the world on ice. ( )
  kenno82 | Aug 28, 2020 |
Very good. A little less detail than the NY Times stories, but with a little more perspective. There is fantastic scope. Urbina's strength is in the (incredible) reporting, and not on describing the process of reporting. Still, the brief personal asides do add something to the book that wasn't in the NY Times, at least as far as I remember.

> Fines for the captain or insurers can run up to $50,000 per stowaway for arriving in port with them. Such costs typically doubled if cargo delays were involved. … In the two years after my New York Times story about him was published in 2015, he stowed away from Cape Town three more times, ending up twice in Senegal and once in Madagascar. He told me that each time captains discovered him on board, the shipowners paid him $1,000 to get off their vessels. This sum was enough to keep him afloat for half a year, he added.

> If he can get private access to the engine room, Hardberger carries a glass vial of magnetic powder to sprinkle on the hull where the ship’s original or "build" name has often been pried off. The shadow of the name still shows up because welding it off changes the metal's valence,

> Of all the evil things I saw while reporting for this book, the karaoke bars in Ranong were perhaps the most sinister. Not only did these brokers and bar owners use one type of trafficked migrant to entrap another type of trafficked migrant, but the sex workers and their indebted clients were both, quite often, children.

> A grown whale can scrape all the fish from a five-mile line in under an hour. To avoid snaring their own mouths, the whales bite off the fish just below the hooks. Sometimes all that's left behind, he said, are fish lips dangling from the lines. More experienced whales bite the line, shaking loose the fish so they can eat them whole.

> Purwanto said that even if there were violations, it didn't matter—he needed the job, so he would not say anything more. There was nothing else for him back in Indonesia, he said. "This is the best we can get." ( )
  breic | Jul 11, 2020 |
"For all its breathtaking beauty, the ocean is also a dystopian place, home to dark inhumanities."

The author, a NY Times reporter, describes this book as a "compendium of narratives about this unruly frontier," with each chapter covering a distinct issue surrounding the ocean and the vessels upon it. He spent 4 years, going from vessel to vessel, incident to incident, to compile the reporting contained within this book. A brief description of the contents:

1. The story of Sea Shepherd (formerly Greenpeace) and the 110 day pursuit of a notorious poacher.
2. The story of the Pacific island nation of Palau and its attempts to control its waters from illegal fishing.
3. An offshore platform in the North Sea which has declared its independence as a country, "Sealand."
4. Sea slavery. The notorious human trafficking for workers on fishing vessels, whose crews are sometimes kept offshore for years.
5. A doctor whose ship travels along the Mexican coast taking women to international waters to provide abortions.
6. "Rafted"--what happens to stowaways. Also, the use of the high seas by governments, including the US to interrogate terrorists, thus avoiding laws that apply on land.
7. A maritime repo man, and how to "steal" a ship from port.
8. The middlemen--"Manning Agencies" which provide ships with crews, thus allowing shipping companies to have plausible deniability for many abuses.
9. Offshore drilling in Brazil.
10. Sea Slavery--Thai sailors on Chinese vessels.
11. Dumping waste at sea.
12. Borders. Lots of disagreement as to where a country's borders end and international waters begin. This chapter involved a "shoot-out" and sinking between Indonesia and Vietnam over whose waters they were in.
13. "Armed and dangerous." Murder at sea. Floating armories at sea.
14. The Somali 7. How ships are licensed. Piracy.
15. Hunting Hunters. Sea Shepherd and its attempts to curtail Japanese whalers.

This was both an adventures story and an eye-opening expose of the legal and humanitarian issues arising at sea. Currently, there is no one country or entity to regulate these issues. Corruption is rampant, and there is an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Recommended.

3 1/2 stars ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jun 25, 2020 |
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"A riveting, terrifying, thrilling story of a netherworld that few people know about, and fewer will ever see . . . The soul of this book is as wild as the ocean itself." --Susan Casey, best-selling author of The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean An adrenaline-fueled tour of a vast, lawless and rampantly criminal world that few have ever seen: the high seas. 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.

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