Review: The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier by Ian Urbina
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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 of the book 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.

The Outlaw Ocean links

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