The Outlaw Ocean (807K)

Illegal fishing and forced labor aboard fishing vessels have long plagued the world’s oceans, undermining economic development, national security, food security, and human rights – and nowhere is this more starkly evident than in the Pacific. From cans of tuna to shrimp cocktail, the legality of how seafood is caught and processed is often uncertain.

This policy lab confronts the global environmental and human rights challenges associated with the existing framework of international laws and policies. The research delves into international laws that apply to the high seas, illegal fishing, supply chains, forced labor and human rights abuses to locate leverage points and explore innovative solutions, including how new technologies might be developed and deployed. The research contributes to a work of The Friends of Ocean Action – convened by the World Economic Forum – a coalition of public sector, private sector, and civil society leaders who are committed to accelerating action for sustainability. Solutions require cooperation among nations, international seafood companies, and nonprofit organizations, and the containment of rogue actors.

In this policy lab, students will work with two clients. On illegal fishing, the client is Global Fishing Watch.  Created through a collaboration among Google and other partners, Global Fishing Watch is a pioneer in harnessing satellite technology to enable better management of fisheries. On forced labor, the client is the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, which brings together tuna processors who comprise more than 70% of the global market for canned tuna and is committed to developing solutions to address forced labor on fishing vessels in the tuna sector and beyond.  Through the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, students will also connect to a broad range of additional actors on these issues, including UN agencies, large seafood companies, and human rights and environmental NGOs. Students will produce policy briefs that will be published by the Center for Ocean Solutions. The practicum seeks law students, business students, and graduate and well-qualified undergraduates in such programs as earth systems, computer science, product design, public policy, sociology, and marine biology.

Course Catalog


The OutlaaColourful wave breaking in ocean over reef and rockw Ocean (807K) 2

Center for Ocean Solutions

Visit the Center for Ocean Solutions website for more information on the story behind this practicum and an outline of the report contents.

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Clients & Deliverables

Client: Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions

Deliverables: Policy memos, client presentation, final public report

The Outlaw Ocean (807K) 1

How to Apply

Student applications are by consent of the instructor. Please apply at