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Outlaw Ocean Policy Practicum 3.0

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Stanford students drive interdisciplinary policy solutions 

The third iteration of this collaborative course between the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and the Stanford Law School gives students the opportunity to investigate solutions to illegal fishing from a policy perspective.

June 3, 2022 | Lilli Carlsen

Twelve students, ten weeks, and one big problem: illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing. Facilitated by the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions (COS) and the Stanford Law School (SLS) Law & Policy Lab, this collaborative course brings together students from across Stanford University’s graduate and undergraduate programs to apply their multidisciplinary expertise in law, policy, ocean science, and management in a ten-week research experience. 

This year the students were grouped into three teams of four and ultimately created two research briefs. The first brief explores the development of a tool that will enable companies to identify and address risk of IUU fishing activities in supply chains. Students on this project collaborated with FishWise to design a user research plan to identify potential users, needs, and processes that the tool could support. The second brief explores how ports could be a key focus for addressing modern slavery in the fishing industry and enforcing human rights laws. Students on this project collaborated with the Rights Lab at University of Nottingham to identify key systemic issues, legislative assets and problems, local institutions, and policies or practices that impact port communities. Below, participants share their experience in the third Outlaw Ocean Policy Practicum.


"The Outlaw Ocean Policy Lab condensed years worth of professional lessons into one quarter. Despite having little background on the subject matter at the outset, our broad range of experiences made for a unique and exciting group approach to problem-solving."

- Jackie Schaeffer
JD Candidate, Stanford Law School ‘23

Initiated in spring 2020, the Outlaw Ocean Policy Practicum expands on COS’s work with the Friends of Ocean Action and the World Economic Forum on issues of IUU fishing and labor abuses in the seafood industry. The course was inspired by the investigative reporting of New York Times author, Ian Urbina, and his book The Outlaw Ocean about maritime crime on the high seas, including IUU fishing and forced labor.  Urbina visited the class to share insights from his ongoing work with the Outlaw Ocean Project

“The interviews made a lasting impression because I got to connect with and learn from highly influential people. I’ve never been to the places we were studying, so interviewing experts gave me more confidence in making policy recommendations.”

- Natalie Cross
BS Candidate, Earth Systems ‘22

At a midpoint in the course, Eric Hartge, Research Development Manager at COS, led the class in a system-mapping exercise to unpack hidden nuances that may have significant implications for adopting solutions. "I was impressed by the compelling depth of knowledge, motivation, and skill sets that the students brought to this class," said Hartge. 

"When talking about labor abuses in the fisheries sector, in addition to focusing on fishers and the actors who can provide support, we were also encouraged to explore the issue from diverse perspectives. It was fascinating to explore the psychological and social dimensions of labor abuse, aspects I had never delved into before, along with the other students in my group."

- Stephanie Rizka
LLM Candidate, Stanford Law School '22

Students and the teaching team on the final day of class.Front Row (left to right): Liz Selig, Safari Fang, Stephanie Rizka, Marisa Lowe, Konadu Amoakuh, Bianca Santos, Natalie Cross, Janet Martinez, Marie Iwasaki. Back Row: Alfredo Giron-Nava, Jim Leape, Jessie Kaull, Sydney Speizman, Claire Duval, Jackie Schaeffer, Sabrina Devereaux, Eric Hartge

The work being produced by the students in the Outlaw Ocean Policy Practicum underscores the broad range of topics, perspectives and expertise that can be brought to bear in addressing the complex problems IUU fishing poses. A course like this that bridges the worlds of academia, business and government is one solution to providing a long-term approach to solving some of the most pressing policy issues facing our oceans today.


Learn more about the Outlaw Ocean Policy Practicum

Learn more about Addressing Illegal Fishing and Labor Abuses


Photos courtesy of Eric Hartge, Alfredo Girón-Nava, and Chloe Mikles