The Outlaw Ocean, Part One: Shining a Light on the Dark Side of Life on the Ocean

©The Outlaw Ocean Project

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

“About a hundred miles off the coast of Thailand, three dozen Cambodian boys and men worked barefoot all day and into the night on the deck of a purse seiner fishing ship. Fifteen-foot swells climbed the sides of the ship, clipping the crew below the knees. Ocean spray and fish innards made the floor skating-rink slippery. Seesawing erratically from the rough seas and gale winds, the deck was an obstacle course of jagged tackle, spinning winches, and tall stacks of five-hundred pound nets.”

“If they were not fishing, the crew sorted their catch and fixed their nets, which were prone to ripping. One boy, his shirt smudged with fish guts, proudly showed off his missing two fingers, severed by a net that had coiled around a spinning crank. Their hands, which virtually never fully dried, had open wounds, slit from fish scales and torn from the nets’ friction. The boys stitched closed the deeper cuts themselves. Infections were constant. Captains never lacked for amphetamines to help the crews work longer, but they rarely stocked antibiotics for infected wounds.”

“Virtually all of the crew had debt to clear, part of their indentured servitude, a ‘travel now, pay later’ labor system that requires working to pay off money they often had to borrow to sneak illegally into a new country… This was a brutal place.”

The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier

“For all the adventure, though, the most important thing I saw from ships all around the world…was an ocean woefully under-protected and the mayhem and misery often faced by those who work those waters.”

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