The ocean is full of crime. And the only ones saving the day? Not even law enforcement.
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Waitt Foundation

Aside from the occasional joke about a pirate, how many of us actually think about outlaws in the oceans?

You seem ... blue. Image via Tiago Fioreze/Wikimedia Commons.


Normal, nonprofessional seafarers — like most of us — probably don't. That's the duty of ... who? Countries with coastlines? Nations have navies and law enforcement for that, right?

Image via DEMIS Mapserver/Wikimedia Commons.

Wellllll ... The New York Times looked into this in its series "Outlaw Ocean" and found out some tough truths about crimes that happen at sea.

Basically the open sea is the new Wild West.

GIF from "Once Upon a Time in the West."

While many countries, companies, and even the United Nations have written rules and laws, those laws are often weak. And get this — they're easy for criminals to break.

Typically, a ship sailing on the ocean can only be stopped by another law enforcement ship that shares the same flag. American law enforcement ships can only stop American ships and so on.

And if it is my flag? Maybe not even my problem then. Image via ACME Squares/Wikimedia Commons.

And most law enforcement agencies — even countries and their navies — just don't have the inclination or the ability to enforce the laws and rules anyway.

We're talking about ...

GIF via "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

GIF via "Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest."

All hugely dramatic stuff, just being swept under the proverbial ocean rug.

So, when legit law enforcement turns a blind eye to legit problems, who ya gonna call?

Manta rays? No! We're gonna call someone else.

Sea vigilantes!

Yeah. Ideally we'd have legit help from official authorities. But much like Ghostbusters (only these problems are NORMAL, not paranormal), sometimes you gotta think outside the law enforcement box to get the solution started.

Here are the major players.

Have you heard of the Environmental Justice Foundation?

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

These folks won Seaweb's Seafood Champion Award in 2015 for their work monitoring illegal fishing in West Africa. Illegal fishing messed up the environment, and it's associated with some pain for humans, too.

"Illegal fishing is a widespread global problem and particularly prevalent in West Africa. It devastates vital ecosystems, ruins livelihoods, undermines food security and is associated with human trafficking and other labour abuses." — Steve Trent, executive director of the Environmental Justice Foundation

How about the movie "Blackfish"?

Remember the movie that makes everyone's favorite Twitterer, Cher, start using "SeaWorld" as a pejorative?

GIF via "Blackfish."

"Blackfish" didn't necessarily help with fighting crime on the high seas as much as it had a huge effect on keeping criminal things from continuing to happen to creatures that'd rather be swimming freely in the high seas.

This film was so effective in communicating the trouble with SeaWorld that it had an impact on SeaWorld's profits.

A documentary movie as crimefighter — what an unlikely hero.

I bet you've heard whispers of Greenpeace, too.

They're more than just those people you hear about yelling at whale murderers! (Though they do do that!)

Image by Roberta F./Wikimedia Commons.

They're out to save not just whales and fish but human beings being placed at risk for human trafficking by illegal fishing.

Their website states:

"The same unbridled economic interests that are driving destruction in our oceans are also allowing horrific labour practices and human rights abuses of workers in the seafood industry."

And it's right! To do their part to stop this madness, Greenpeace is working with the largest producer of canned tuna, Thai Union Group, and its largest brand, Chicken of the Sea, to get it together and stop massive labor violations on its supply chain.

What's perhaps my favorite part of sea crime fighting from Greenpeace involves no one getting on a boat ... but it involves investors in boats.

A fishing company in China that would've bought more vessels to fish big-eye tuna (which is already overfished) wanted to go public on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Shares, stockholders, all that.

Greenpeace followed the tail of this Chinese fishing company, and it found some pretty FISHY (sorry, not sorry) finances.

According to Greenpeace's John Hocevar, the fishing company "acknowledged that overfishing was an issue, but said that there was so little enforcement it shouldn't be a problem! Greenpeace exposed their plans, and ultimately the public offering was cancelled."

Yep. After Greenpeace reported the problems to the Hong Kong Stock Exchange, the company, China Tuna, withdrew its plan to go public and ultimately lost around $150 million.

Greenpeace is a big name, and they have funding, and they're putting it to use to help people. Cool.

Actually, it's horrific labor practices! GIF via "Newlyweds."

And let's talk about a small but mighty aerial and satellite imaging company, SkyTruth.

Great name, right? Wait until you hear their motto.

"If you can see it, you can change it."


Satellite images are cool. But they can also be very very useful. Image by NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/Flickr.

Using satellite technology in partnership with an equally cool-named company, SpaceQuest, SkyTruth tracked a notoriously law-breaking ocean cargo ship, the Dona Liberta. This boat was seen suspiciously close to a huge dump of oily bilge.

As The New York Times Outlaw Ocean series reported, SkyTruth pointed out a stripe of dirty water (you could see it from space!) that "stretched about 92 miles from Cabinda, Angola."

With the possibilities of satellite technology, it could be much easier to keep an eye on the far reaches of the seas, cutting down on human trafficking, murder, and profiteering. Will governments continue to turn their back on enforcing laws? Or will they embrace technology and crack down on some egregious law-breaking?

I don't think it's a reach to say that we'd maybe rather have actual certified law enforcement enforce these laws. But until then, at least there are some sea cowboys — behind film cameras, on boats, and in satellites — out there lookin' out.

GIF via "A Fistful of Dollars."

Giddyup.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less