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‘Half Bemused, Half Really Afraid’: What It’s Like Reporting on the High Seas

Sea Shepherd's ship, the Bob Barker, in pursuit of toothfish poachers. (Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd Global)

There's an old saying in journalism that there are no new stories, everything's been done before, ProPublica's Joe Sexton says. But when he came across "The Outlaw Ocean," investigative reporter Ian Urbina's latest series for The New York Times, he couldn't help but be "genuinely jealous" of the intriguing, outrageous world he uncovered.

Urbina joined Sexton on the podcast to discuss the rampant labor, human rights and environmental abuses he witnessed out on the high seas and the challenges of reporting out in such remote, international waters.

Photo: Sea Shepherd's ship, the Bob Barker, in pursuit of toothfish poachers. (Simon Ager/Sea Shepherd Global)

Highlights from their conversation:

  • How Urbina made it his goal to get on board the ships "where the real rogue characters operate" some 250 miles out at sea; the challenge was getting there. We had to "hopscotch" our way from boat to boat, haggling with captains 50 miles at a time, he says. (4:09)
  • Urbina’s “half bemused, half really afraid” moment when the ship lost all power – causing a near mutiny. “That was the one moment when I thought what a ridiculous way to go,” he tells Sexton. (8:40)
  • How there’s a fear among journalists that no matter the level of reporting, your work may not lead to the kind of change you want to see. (13:21)
  • And lastly, Sexton couldn’t help but ask, did you get seasick? “I didn’t,” Urbina says. “Every translator we brought on board did … I lucked out.” (15:20)

Listen to this podcast on iTunes, SoundCloud or Stitcher. For more on Urbina's reporting, read his four-part series, "The Outlaw Ocean."

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