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Crimes against the environment

An environmental crime can be either a deliberate or careless act that harms the environment and breaks current laws. It might be Illegal fishing, logging and trading in timberpolluting or Illegally trading wildlife. Although worldwide concern for the environment is growing, AIC research indicates that there is no real let up in environmental offences. This website contains a wealth of research into environmental crime particularly relating to the fishing industry, the illegal timber trade in the Asia-Pacific region and deliberately lit bushfires. The AIC has also examined environmental crime prevention as a resource for future policy makers.

Environmental law

Laws that protect the environment are relatively new. The first true environmental laws in Australia were enacted in the 1970s. Since then, a myriad of statutes have been introduced across all jurisdictions to prohibit actions that harm the environment. Although research in this area is still developing, the AIC has compiled a comprehensive overview of environmental crime in Australia. It has also studied specific areas of concern such as marine crime, illegal logging, and bushfire arson. The AIC’s website offers an exhaustive collection of links to national and international environmental law sites.

Illegal fishing

Increasing demand for Australian seafood overseas and at home is putting pressure on both legal and illegal markets. Illegal fishing depletes fish stocks, damages ecosystems and disrupts the livelihood of lawful fishers. Destructive large haul fishing methods increase the problem. Although illegal fishing in Australia is believed to be small-scale and opportunistic, organised crime is nevertheless active, particularly in high value stocks such as abalone and rock lobster. The AIC’s national study into crime in the Australian fishing industry, has made wide-ranging recommendations suggesting legislative changes and increasing the specialist skills of fisheries officers. Links to this and other related national and international research are available on this website.

Illegal logging and timber trade

Illegal logging involves felling protected tree species, or taking timber from protected areas or beyond specific quotas. It is a practice rife in the Asia-Pacific region and leads to economic losses and environmental degradation in many countries. AIC research shows that even though Australia’s timber is mostly harvested legally, we have poor or non-existent import laws relating to illegally logged timber. This means that Australia ‘unwittingly’ benefits from the illegal logging taking place elsewhere. To find out more about this subject the AIC website offers useful links to the work of NGOs, business and government.

Illegal pollution

Illegal pollution contaminates the environment – whether on land, sea or air. It takes many forms including the illegal dumping of waste, the illegal trade in hazardous waste and toxic chemicals and the illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances. For more information, the AIC website offers a range of links to international and national research.

Illegal wildlife trade

Interpol defines wildlife crime as taking, trading, exploiting or possessing the world’s wild flora and fauna in contravention of national and international laws. Most wide-reaching of these laws is the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which is an international agreement between governments aimed at ensuring that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. The AIC website provides wide-ranging links to international and Australian sites involved in combatting the illegal wildlife trade.

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