Our oceans are some of the most remote and lawless spots on Earth. In a new CNBC documentary called "Oceans of Crime," Ted Kemp reports on widespread illegality in the global seafood industry – everything from slavery to murder, the depletion of our planet's fish stocks, and wholesale theft by rogue fishing operations. In this investigative report, Kemp shows how an outlaw industry is funded by unknowing consumers who buy tuna, salmon, and seafood-based pet food.
Viewers will see how our seafood supply moves from the waters of Southeast Asia to American shores. Along the way, they'll follow an eco-activist and ship captain who's chasing rogue Chinese fishing vessels in the South Indian Ocean; a satellite sleuth in West Virginia who culls signal data to help patrol the world's seas; an American aid worker struggling to help former fishing boat slaves in Thailand; and conscientious retailers and restaurant owners trying to make sense of a shadowy supply chain.
Ted Kemp, Managing Editor, CNBC International Digital, and the reporter for this hour, has long covered ocean lawlessness and piracy. In "Oceans of Crime," he presents a gripping story about a crisis that affects us all, and the food we eat. CNBC recently caught up with Kemp to discuss what inspired him to pursue the subject, and what concerned consumers can do about it.
What factors led to the investigation of the illegal seafood market as a documentary subject?
I did a story for CNBC Digital in 2014 about pirates in the Singapore Strait—which is a big problem for the world's busiest commercial waterway. I interviewed a British captain who worked for a Hong Kong-based shipper, and I asked him who these pirates were. How did they get in that dangerous, illegal line of work? He said, "Well, they used to be fishermen," but their local fish stocks had been wiped out by "these big, commercial operations" from China and other places. I made a note to myself: Go back and check that out; these illegal fishing operations could be a big story. And it turned out they were.
What were some obstacles or challenges you had to overcome in order to get the information needed to tell this story?
Large-scale, hyper-destructive, commercial fishing is not something that the people doing it want to talk about. They won't be cooperating, because they don't want anyone to even know what they're doing. So we had to report around the edges, as they say: The scientists, the activists, the legitimate fishing industry, the US State Department, the Thai Navy.