The Outlaw Ocean Documentary and Book

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The Outlaw Ocean is a riveting, adrenaline-fueled journey through some of the most dangerous regions of the earth: the high seas, where lawlessness and physical risk prevail. Ian Urbina — Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for The New York Times — gives us a galvanizing account of the several years he spent exploring and investigating the high seas, the industries that make use of it, and the people who make their, often criminal, living on it.

Reporter: Ian Urbina
Editor: Sophia Peer
Producer: Annelise Blackwood
Footage: Fabio Nascimento

About The Outlaw Ocean Project

The Outlaw Ocean Project is a non-profit journalism organization that produces high-impact investigative stories about lawlessness at sea and the diversity of environmental, human rights, and labor abuses occurring offshore around the world. 

In what began as an award-winning series in 2015 in The New York Times and a resulting book in 2019 by Ian Urbina, the ongoing non-profit reporting is now published as written and video stories in partnership with news outlets in dozens of countries globally. 

For the sake of reaching a broader and a more diverse audience, the project also specializes in converting the journalism into other narrative forms such as music initiatives, educational games, podcast episodes, tv series, animation, and documentary films.

The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

A riveting, 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.


“The Outlaw Ocean brings the reader up close to an overwhelming truth… An impressive feat of reporting… Urbina deftly reveals complicated ideas through his stories.”
The Washington Post

“This body of work is a devastating look at the corruption, exploitation, and trafficking that thrive on the open ocean… The writing is straightforward but clever… Eerie and beautiful.”

The Outlaw Ocean is enriched by Urbina’s gifted storytelling about the destruction of marine life and the murder, crime, and piracy that make the seas so dangerous for those who make their living on them.”
The National Book Review

About the Author

IAN URBINA is the director of the Outlaw Ocean Project and an investigative reporter who writes regularly for The New York TimesThe AtlanticNational Geographic and other venues. He has won a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News and a George Polk Award for Foreign Reporting. Several of his stories have been developed into major feature films and one was nominated for an Emmy Award. He has degrees in history and cultural anthropology from Georgetown University and the University of Chicago. Before being on staff at the Times for nearly two decades, he wrote about the Middle East and Africa for various outlets, including the Los Angeles TimesVanity Fair, and Harper’s Magazine. He lives in Washington D.C., with his family.

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