Environmental crime is increasing as organised crime groups look for new opportunities to increase profits. Environmental crime is described as illegal acts which cause direct harm to the environment.
There are four categories of environmental crime:
- Biodiversity crime—illegal trade in endangered species of flora and fauna.
- Natural resources-related crime—illegal fishing or logging.
- Illegal movement and disposal of hazardous wastes—illegal movement of nuclear waste or dumping of oil.
- Banned substances crime—illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances.
The most common forms of environmental crime in Australia are:
- illegal trade in flora and fauna
- illegal commercial fishing
- pearl theft.
In Australia, activities that constitute an environmental crime under Commonwealth law are those that have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance, such as:
- World Heritage properties
- National Heritage places
- wetlands of international importance
- threatened species and ecological communities
- listed migratory species
- Commonwealth marine areas
- nuclear actions (including uranium mining).
The environmental crime market in Australia remains a niche illicit market, with a diverse range of individuals committing these crimes—ranging from individuals inadvertently contravening environmental laws through to organised criminal groups. Those engaged in environmental crime are attracted by increasing demand and financial incentives. Criminal groups involved in environmental crimes demonstrate high levels of specialisation and have established networks, methodologies and illicit markets.