Meet Ian Urbina: The Journalist Behind The Outlaw Ocean Raising Awareness About What Truly Happens on the High Seas

Few journalists have proven as efficient at unraveling the truth as Ian Urbina. A former investigative reporter for the New York Times, The Atlantic, National Geographic, and other important media outlets. A graduate of Georgetown University and the University of Chicago with training in history, political theory, and anthropology, Urbina quickly took the journalism world by storm by tackling journalism as an anthropological study.

Urbina has been the recipient of some of the most prominent journalism awards for his work, including a Pulitzer Prize, a George Polk Award, and an Emmy nomination. As if these awards were not enough, some of his investigations were taken to the big screen as part of major productions which have been watched by millions.

After leaving The New York Times in 2019, Urbina would continue growing his passion for journalism by founding the Outlaw Ocean project. This non-profit journalism organization investigates and writes stories on topics such as human rights, environment, and labor concerns related to the unconquered offshore region.

This project, which is now at the center of Urbina’s journalistic efforts, is the continuation of the book he wrote as part of its investigative work for The New York Times: “Outlaw Ocean: Crime and Survival in the Last Untamed Frontier”.  A recent climate change piece was also featured in the L.A. Times

The book, which would become part of The New York Times Best Seller list in 2019, received positive acclaim from critics and readers and earned Urbina numerous awards.

In the book, he would cover topics such as unregulated fishing, human trafficking, and crime at high sea. Urbina not only reported the tales from those who have lived such activities in the flesh but he himself found himself in patrol boats and other vessels experiencing them first hand.

Urbina has added his distinct mark to The Outlaw Ocean Project’s journalistic endeavors by bringing many of his passions together, paying special attention to music, animation, and stage performance.

This unique approach aims to help the project reach a younger and international audience, which in addition to the stories published in prominent outlets like the New Yorker and The Washington Post, help millions of people understand what actually happens in the region that occupies  2 thirds of the surface of our planet.

This effort also resulted in the creation of The Outlaw Ocean Music Project, which focused on bringing music and journalism together. The project publishes new music pieces inspired by the stories of “The Outlaw Ocean” every month with the aim to raise awareness in a novel manner.

The project has seen collaboration with more than 400 artists across 60 countries while also covering a variety of genres ranging from Hip-hop to Jazz.

Despite the success of the musical project, Urbina would find himself in the eye of the storm when controversy exploded back in 2021 around how royalties were being handled by the project.

Urbina would later apologize “unequivocally” and return music rights to artists who wished to have them returned, which allowed the project to regain the trust of the public.

As of now, Urbina continues championing the efforts of raising awareness over what truly happens in that “outlaw ocean” he grew too fond of during his investigations. In recent months he has helped expose Europe’s shadow immigration system, questioned the practice of deep seabed mining, raised awareness around overfishing, and investigated murders on the high seas.

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