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.

In February 2011, the Government of the Philippines issued an Executive Order to address the illegal wood industry in the country. One portion of the order was to establish the Anti-Illegal Logging Task Force (AILTF). Between 2011 and 2012, up to 25 civilian members of the task force were killed.

During the same time period, the number of hotspots in the Philippines where unauthorized logging was highly active decreased from 197 to 31. Authorities seized 19.2 million board feet of logs that were illegally cut, and convicted 72 people.

Source:  TJ Burgonio, “Aquino to AFP: Get illegal loggers,” Inquirer, November 26, 2012.

The Government of Australia estimated in 2012 that over 10 percent of the timber that is imported into the country was illegal logged. Based on the value of Australia’s logging industry, the value of illegally logged timber in the country is worth $4.1 Billion (4 Billion Australian Dollars).

Source:  James Grubel and David Fogarty, “Australia passes illegal logging laws, joins EU, U.S.,” Reuters, November 20, 2012.

Officials in the Philippines estimate that up to 95 percent of the gold trade in the country is controlled by black market smugglers. The rise in the smuggling of gold is attributed to the 7 percent tax rate on gold sales levied by the Central Bank starting in 2011.

Source:  Daxim L. Lucas, “Smugglers now control 95% of Philippine gold trade,” Inquirer, November 19, 2012.

Mexican drug cartel Los Zetas is estimated to be earning between $22 Million to $25 Million by illegally mining coal near the US border.

The cartels either mine the coal themselves or purchase it from small operators and then sell the coal to the state-owned mine company and make a profit up to 30 times their investment.

The Zetas either produce or purchase up to 10,000 tons of coal a week.

(More illegal and criminal profits here.)

Source:  AFP, “Mexican druglords strike gold in coal,” Google News, November 18, 2012.

Illegal fishing catches around the world account for 19 percent of the world’s catches, according to the European Union.

The EU reported that the countries of Belize, Cambodia, Fiji, Guinea, Panama, Sri Lanka, Togo and Vanuatu were countries where the governments were not doing enough to combat the activity.

Source:  Associated Press, “EU warns 8 nations about illegal fishing,” CBS News, November 15, 2012.


According to environmental officials in Cambodia, loggers and traders are able to make thousands of dollars through illegal logging activities in the country.

Villagers in forest areas cut down trees and sell it to illegal traders who pay up to $1,500 per cubic meter of rosewood. The trader than brings the rosewood to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh, and sell it for $5,000. The wood to then smuggled into Vietnam and eventually into China, where an unprocessed cubic meter of rosewood can be sold to manufactures for $50,000.

Between 1990 and 2010, around 2.8 million hectares of forest was lost to logging in Cambodia.

Source: Paul Vrieze and Neou Vannarin, “Cambodia: shrinking forests breed violence,” GlobalPost, November 12, 2012.

As of March 2012, authorities found 1,175 illegal waste dumping sites in Britain and Whales. The biggest category of illegal waste that is dumped is  construction and demolition waste. Other types of waste that is illegally dumped included household goods and end-of-life vehicles (including the car’s batteries, oil, air conditioner and brake fluid.)

(Value of the World Black Market.)

An Environment Agency Intelligence Manager in Britain stated that on average, the cost to pay criminals to illegally dump materials is 50 percent less than paying a legitimate waste disposal company.

Source:  Jon Henley, “Waste crime: Britain’s war on illegal dumping,” Guardian, November 11, 2012.

In August 2012, police in Italy reported that they has been an increase of 78 percent in the amount of gold, silver and cash that was prevented from being smuggled out of the country in the first six month of 2012.

The cash-for-gold industry in Italy is believed to be used by criminals as a method of money laundering, according to authorities. A network of gold smugglers broken up by police made $207 Million in profits smuggling over 33,000 pounds of gold and silver.

The number of cash-for-gold stores in Italy has quadrupled in a two-year span, and only a small minority of the 28,000 shops are officially registered with the government.

Source:  “Italy busts suspected gold-smuggling network,” BBC News, November 8, 2012.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals estimates that tens of thousands of puppies are trafficked from Ireland into the United Kingdom. The traffickers are meeting the demand of puppies due to a shortage in the UK from strict spaying and neutering polices that have lowered the dog population.

Trafficking rings are selling the puppies on the black market at prices between $255 to $1,275 (€200 to €1,000). The types of puppies being sold are Jack Russells, Labradors, springer spaniels, cocker spaniels and beagles.

(Price of exotic pets and other animals for sale.)

Source:  Treacy Hogan, “Puppy trafficking netting criminals millions,” Irish Independent, November 5, 2012.

Due to illegal catching and poor governance, Africa losses up to one million tons of fish each year, according to the Director of the Fisheries Center at the University of British Columbia in Canada.

The amount of fish lost in Africa represents 10 percent of total global losses.

Losing one million tons of fish is equivalent to losing 10 million cows per year.

(See more economic impact from unregulated fishing.)

Source:  “Africa Loses One Million Tonnes of Fish Yearly Due to Illegal Fishing,” AllAfrica, October 25, 2012.