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

True

Anne Hebert, a marketing writer living in Austin, TX, jokes that her closest friends think that her hobby is "low-key harassment for social good". She authors a website devoted entirely to People Doing Good Things. She's hosted a yearly canned food drive with up to 150 people stopping by to donate, resulting in hundreds of pounds of donations to take to the food bank for the past decade.

"I try to share info in a positive way that gives people hope and makes them aware of solutions or things they can do to try to make the world a little better," she said.

For now, she's encouraging people through a barrage of persistent, informative, and entertaining emails with one goal in mind: getting people to VOTE. The thing about emailing people and talking about politics, according to Hebert, is to catch their attention—which is how lice got involved.

"When my kids were in elementary school, I was class parent for a year, which meant I had to send the emails to the other parents. As I've learned over the years, a good intro will trick your audience into reading the rest of the email. In fact, another parent told me that my emails always stood out, especially the one that started: 'We need volunteers for the Valentine's Party...oh, and LICE.'"

Hebert isn't working with a specific organization. She is simply trying to motivate others to find ways to plug in to help get out the vote.

Photo by Phillip Goldsberry on Unsplash

Keep Reading Show less
via Kim Kardashian West / Twitter

It's not hard for most people to make fun of the Kardashians. But this week it got even easier after Kim tweeted she took a birthday getaway to Tahiti with her friends and family — during a deadly pandemic.

"After 2 weeks of multiple health screens and asking everyone to quarantine, I surprised my closest inner circle with a trip to a private island where we could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time," she tweeted.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
True

Glenda moved to Houston from Ohio just before the pandemic hit. She didn't know that COVID-19-related delays would make it difficult to get her Texas driver's license and apply for unemployment benefits. She quickly found herself in an impossible situation — stranded in a strange place without money for food, gas, or a job to provide what she needed.

Alone, hungry, and scared, Glenda dialed 2-1-1 for help. The person on the other end of the line directed her to the Houston-based nonprofit Bread of Life, founded by St. John's United Methodist pastors Rudy and Juanita Rasmus.

For nearly 30 years, Bread of Life has been at the forefront of HIV/AIDS prevention, eliminating food insecurity, providing permanent housing to formerly homeless individuals and disaster relief.

Glenda sat in her car for 20 minutes outside of the building, trying to muster up the courage to get out and ask for help. She'd never been in this situation before, and she was terrified.

When she finally got out, she encountered Eva Thibaudeau, who happened to be walking down the street at the exact same time. Thibaudeau is the CEO of Temenos CDC, a nonprofit multi-unit housing development also founded by the Rasmuses, with a mission to serve Midtown Houston's homeless population.

Keep Reading Show less

Ah, the awkward joy of school picture day. Most of us had to endure the unnatural positioning, the bright light shining in our face, and the oddly ethereal backgrounds that mark the annual ritual. Some of us even have painfully humorous memories to go along with our photos.

While entertaining school picture day stories are common, one mom's tale of her daughter's not-picture-perfect school photo is winning people's hearts for a funny—but also inspiring—reason.

Jenny Albers of A Beautifully Burdened Life shared a photo of her daughter on her Facebook page, which shows her looking just off camera with a very serious look on her face. No smile. Not even a twinkle in her eye. Her teacher was apologetic and reassured Albers that she could retake the photo, but Albers took one look and said no way.

Keep Reading Show less
via Ted-Ed / YouTube

Trees are one of the most effective ways to fight back against climate change. Like all plants, trees consume atmospheric carbon through photosynthesis then store it in their wood tissue and in the surrounding soil.

They work as an organic vacuum to remove the billions of pounds of carbon dioxide that humans have dumped into the atmosphere over the past century.

So, if trees are going to be part of the war on climate change, what strategies should we use to make the best use of their amazing ability to repair the Earth? How can we be sure that after planting these trees they are protected and don't become another ecological victim of human greed?

Keep Reading Show less