what are environmental crimes


An environmental crime is any illegal activity that breaches national or international environmental laws. The unlawful exploitation of the planet’s natural resources is a threat to the survival of all organisms on earth.


The term “environmental crime” refers to any illegal act that breaks national or international environmental laws. Everyone on Earth could die if people use the planet’s natural resources in an illegal way. This is why these crimes are so important to stop. (Research source: Interpol)

type of environmental crime
  1. Illegal Wildlife Trade

  • Illegal wildlife trade is when people illegally sell, smuggle, and buy wildlife products. 
  • It is thought that at least $7 billion to $23 billion of illegal wildlife trade in the US each year. This trading is a major threat to the world’s biodiversity. 
  • Many animal species have gone extinct because people have been too greedy. Endangered species are worth a lot on the illegal wildlife trade black market because they are rare and hard to find.
  • In addition, the illegal trade encourages poaching. Poaching is illegal hunting of wild animals. There are a lot of poachers in different parts of the world, and they kill a lot of animals each year.
  • The illegal trade of wildlife has also led to the spread of invasive species in new ecosystems. An invasive species is a plant or animal that is not from the local area.  These species move into new areas when the local plants or animals are dying out.  Often these new species cause lots of problems and endanger even more local animals. 
  1. Dumping of Hazardous Waste

  • People and the environment can be hurt by hazardous waste. This type of waste has chemicals and other harmful things in it. When hazardous waste is thrown away in the wrong way, it can harm ecosystems and other parts of the environment.
  • Environmental crimes also happen when people dump sewage water into lakes, rivers, and the world’s oceans without any thought.
  • Industries make a lot of waste during the process of making something. Often pollutants can get into water sources and the soil from the waste of these companies.
  • Contaminated water can harm marine ecosystems and may also cause sickness in humans or animals who drink it. 
  • To keep the environment safe, hazardous waste should be properly disposed of.
  1. Illegal Logging

  • Illegal logging is when trees are illegally cut down in a forest.
  • Millions of trees are cut down, moved, and processed each year for money. Illegal logging has led to the destruction of the world’s tropical rainforests, including the Amazon.
  • A lot of people cut down trees illegally. People in countries are very poor and these trees offer them a way to make money they desperately need. 
  • Illegal logging is mostly caused by the high demand for wood products.
  • Forest cover has also been illegally cut down to make way for farming.
  1. Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated Fishing

  • It happens every year that different types of sea animals are killed for commercial reasons. 
  • It’s thought that 15% to 30% of the world’s fish are caught by people who aren’t legally allowed to fish.
  • Illegal and unregulated fishing has led to the extinction of some aquatic animals, while others are on the endangered species list.
  • When whales were hunted, for example, they quickly died out. Also, scientists estimate that around 1 million sharks are killed each year for their fins.
  • Unregulated fishing in the ocean can have an effect on marine biodiversity. It can be hard for marine ecosystems to stay balanced when one or more species are lost, which can make them less stable.
  1. Illegal Trade of Controlled Substances

  • A controlled chemical is any substance that can’t be used, owned, or made without permission from the government. The illegal sale of ozone-depleting substances is a crime against the environment.
  • People who make ozone-depleting substances are making chemicals that can harm the ozone layer. When you look at the sky, you can see the earth’s atmosphere. It protects the planet from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation. 
  • Without the ozone layer, the Earth will get too much UV radiation. This will make the Earth too hot. Constant high exposure to radiation can have an effect on our health.
  • Many controlled chemicals can also end up in water sources, which can make them dirty.
  • The chemicals can also get into the soil, which can make crops less productive.


The illegal sale and purchase of wildlife products and natural resources can take place between two or more countries:

  • When environmental criminals smuggle their goods across international borders, it constitutes an international environmental crime.
  • International environmental crimes mainly take place between countries with certain resources and those that have a demand for the resource.
  • For example, African rhinos are poached due to the high demand for their horns in Asian countries such as China. Rhino horns are used in traditional Chinese medicine
  • Organizations such as the International Trade in Endangered Species safeguard vulnerable species against poaching.
  • The World Customs Organization prevents all forms of international environmental crimes from taking place across borders.
environmental crime types


Corporate environmental crimes occur when companies engage in activities that lead to the pollution of or harm to the environment. (Research source: United States Department of Justice)

  • It’s a crime for a company to do something that’s against the law in both the United States and other countries.
  • Companies that dump waste into water sources illegally are guilty of an environmental crime.
  • Companies that illegally cut down trees and mine for minerals can also be charged with corporate environmental crime.
  • Corporations that do bad things to the environment may have to pay fines for their actions.


Environmental crimes such as illegal wildlife trade take place due to the high demand for wildlife products. (Research source: United Nations Environmental Programme)

How to stop environmental crime
  • Governments should put in place strict environmental laws to stop the problem from getting worse.
  • Wildlife conservation groups should tell people how illegal wildlife trade hurts the environment. It’s important to keep endangered species safe, because they are the ones that get killed by poachers.
  • In order to keep water sources and the soil clean, businesses should be careful with how they dispose of their waste.
  • Those who harm the environment should be held accountable for their actions.


A lot of people are doing bad things to nature all over the world. Because of this, valuable species have been lost around the world. Most environmental crimes have a big impact on the destruction of ecosystems.

There needs to be an end to environmental crimes in order to save the planet’s resources.

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