Environmental Threats

Statistics and information about criminal threats to the environment. Illegal logging, illegal fishing, smuggling and other environmental destruction committed by organized crime is collected from wildlife charities and public information sources.

Company officials with Mexico’s state oil company Pemex stated that it was losing between 5,000 to 10,000 barrels of oil each day to theft.  Pemex produces 2.5 million barrels of oil per day.

The company stated that the number of oil theft incidents was increasing each year by 30 percent.

In 2012, the company discovered 1,744 illegal siphons of its pipelines during the year.

Source:  “Mexico’s Pemex says losing up to 10,000 bpd to oil theft,” Reuters, June 6, 2013.

Between 2003 and 2013, officials with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service has cited over 3,500 violations of wildlife importations and the illegal trafficking of animal at the Louisville International Ariport in Kentucky.

Among the items seized by wildlife officials include sea tortoise shells, sperm whale tooth, Chinese alligator skin and dead snakes in bottles.

The airport is the world’s seventh largest cargo hub.

12,292 shipments of wildlife was examined at the airport by officials in 2012.

Source:  James Bruggers, “Monkey skin coats, endangered-snake wine among illegal wildlife trade through Louisville,” Courier-Journal, June 6, 2013.

HM Revenue and Customs in the United Kingdom discovered 388 occasions where criminals were selling illegal fuel to motorists. The number of incidents discovered during the 2012-2013 time period was 48 percent higher than the 262 detections in 2009-2010. Norther Ireland had 128 detections of illegal fuel sites, with 260 sites being in the rest of the UK.

Previously, HMRC estimated that anywhere from $227 Million to $1 Billion (£150 Million to £700 Million) is lost in fuel tax revenue from illegal fuel smuggling and sales.

Reporters from the BBC were offered a liter of “cheap diesel” for $1.75 (£1.15), approximately 25 percent cheaper than the legitimate retail price. When the fuel was later tested, it was found to be contaminated and substandard.

Source:  Angus Crawford, “Illegal fuel: 48% rise in ‘pop-up garages’,” BBC News, May 31, 2013.

According to statistics collected by the International Maritime Bureau (IMB), there were 33 pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of Nigeria in 2010. In 2012, the number of attacks increased to 58.

Shipping security analysts state that the number of pirate attacks are under-reported. According to security consultants, at least one pirate attack is taking place each day, with the forecast showing that up to 2 may occur in 2013.

The number of pirate attacks off the coast of Nigeria comes as the number of pirate attacks off the coast of Somalia decreased in 2012. Somali pirates attacked 75 vessels in 2012. In the first five months of 2013, only 1 attack has been registered by the IMB.

Due to its developed oil industry, experts believe that pirates in Nigeria are able to make in 10 days what pirates in Somalia make in 10 months.

Source:  Joe Bavier, “INSIGHT-Nigerian pirate gangs extend reach off West Africa,” Reuters, May 29, 2013.

Wildlife traffickers offer sloths for sale in Cordoba, Colombia for around $30.

Animal experts say that many people buy sloths as pets, but do not understand the difficulty in raising and caring for the animals. For example, a zoologist told ABC News that they sloths survive on a complicated diet of about 40 different plant species.

The illegal wildlife trade in Colombia was estimated to have trafficked up to 60,000 animals in 2012.

(See more prices of animals for sale on the black market.)

Source:  John Schriffen and Alex Waterfield, “Hottest-Selling Animal in Colombia’s Illegal Pet Trade: Sloths,” ABC News, Nightline, May 28, 2013.


125 fishermen in Singapore was fined in 2012 for illegal fishing activities across the country.

91 people were fined for fishing in non-fishing designated areas, and 34 people were fined for using live bait. Fishing with live bait is not allowed in Singapore due to safety and environmental concerns.

The National Water Agency stated that recreational fishing is rising in popularity in Singapore.

(More unreported and unregulated fishing statistics.)

Source:  “125 fined for illegal fishing activities in 2012,” Channel NewsAsia, May 26, 2013.

The Minerals Marketing Corporation of Zimbabwe reported in May 2013 that up to $50 Million worth of gold was being illegally smuggled out of Zimbabwe each month.

The gold is believed to be smuggled to South Africa where it is refined on its way to Switzerland. The cost to refine the gold in South Africa is cheaper than in Zimbabwe.

Source:  Kudzai Chimhangwa, “Zimbabwe losing millions to gold smuggling: MMCZ,” Standard, May 26, 2013.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare estimates that up to 50,000 elephants were killed around the world in 2012. The elephants were killed by poachers in order to supply ivory to worldwide markets.

The global trade in ivory has been illegal since a worldwide ban went into effect in 1990.

As of 2013, there is an estimated 500,000 African elephants and 50,000 Asian elephants remaining in the wild.

Source:  Derek Baldwin, “Special report: Interpol acts to stem ivory trade,” Gulf News, May 22, 2013.

Between 1998 to 2012, there were 72 suspected poaching and illegal fishing of endangered freshwater Pearl Mussel in the rivers of Scotland. 45 of the criminal poaching took place during the last four years.

The protected mussel was found in 155 Scottish rivers at the beginning of the 1900s. Due to illegal fishing, the mussel is currently found in one-thirds of the rivers.

Across Europe, around 90 percent of mussels have been killed in the 20th century.

The mussel can live for over 100 years and produce pearls that are used in luxury items.

Source:  Martin Williams,  “Rare pearl mussel at risk due to illegal poaching,” Herald Scotland, May 13, 2013.

Mexican State Oil Company Pemex discovered 1,744 illegal siphons of its oil pipelines in 2012, a 23.2 percent increase from the 1,416 illegal siphons in 2011.

The rate of oil theft continued to increase into 2013, as the company discovered 730 illegal siphons in the first four months of the year, compared to 377 during the same time the year before.

In the first four months of 2013, security personnel have arrested 48 people for siphoning oil from pipelines and arrested 180 people for oil smuggling activities.

Source:  James Bargent, “Oil and Gas Theft in Mexico Doubled in 2013,” Insight Crime, May 10, 2013.