Photo: Director of the Environmental Security Program Sally Yozell with author Ian Urbina, and Senator Chris Coons.
On September 18, the Stimson Center’s Environmental Security Program, in partnership with the Ocean Caucus Foundation, hosted a discussion with New York Times and Pulitzer Prize winning investigative reporter Ian Urbina to launch his new book, The Outlaw Ocean: Journeys Across the Last Untamed Frontier. Building from Urbina’s 2015 series in the New York Times, the book is a riveting chronicle of the author’s travels around the world to expose and document offshore crimes such as sea slavery, illegal fishing, gun running, and murder with impunity.
In a wide-ranging discussion, Environmental Security Program Director Sally Yozell and Urbina discussed his harrowing experiences and stories about the people he met transiting the high seas, from the Arctic to Antarctica and Somalia to Southeast Asia and the South China Sea. Ian described these places as “rarely seen” encapsulating a lawless frontier and the underbelly of a closed seafaring community. Despite the human and environmental tragedies he encountered relating to illegal fishing, slavery and the illicit networks of guns and drugs, the book provides hope and ideas for tackling such complex problems. It touches on the role governance can play in protecting people and increasing transparency across the seafood supply chain and calls out shoring up monitoring and enforcement to root out the bad actors.
Stimson’s Environmental Security Program focuses on developing solutions to many of these same issues by linking them to the environmental, economic and food security of many developing coastal nations. The conversation between Yozell and Urbina was enlightening and brought together policymakers and Congressional staff at a time when crimes on the high seas are too often left unaddressed. Fortunately, the Senate recently passed the Maritime SAFE Act as a provision of the National Defense Reauthorization Act (NDAA). The Maritime SAFE Act adopted six recommendations made in the Stimson Center report, “Casting a Wider Net: The Security Implications of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing.” The legislation aims to curb illegal fishing and other illicit activities, promote a sustainable fishing economy, and increase transparency across the seafood trade.