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.

Between 1998 and 2007, an estimated $4 Billion worth of bluefin tuna was illegally fished around the world. One out of every three bluefin tuna caught was illegally fished.

Through the use of illegal and unregulated fishing activities  fisheries are able to increase the total catch of bluefin tuna each year by 30 percent. This has caused the total stock to be at 15 percent of pre-industrial levels.

In the waters of the Eastern Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, up to half of the bluefin tuna that was caught is unregulated. Over the course of 20 years, underreporting and unregulated fishing in Japan lead to an estimated $6 Billion worth of bluefin tuna to have been caught.

Source: Marina Walker Guevara and Kate Willson and Marcos Garcia Rey, “OVERVIEW: The Black Market in Bluefin,” Center for Public Integrity, November 7, 2010.

Source: Richard Black, “‘Last chance’ for tuna authority,” BBC News, November 9, 2009.

Security services in India broke up a wildlife trafficking ring that were illegally selling elephants from the Indian state of Assam.

The traffickers were offering adult elephants for sale at prices between $22,572 to $33,841 (1 Million to 1.5 Million Indian Rupees). The price to buy a calf elephant was half the price of the adult. According to police, the costs to buy an elephant has risen in the past several years due to increased demand.  Some of the elephant traffickers even print up business cards in order to advertise their services.

Wildlife officials estimated that up to 25 to 30 elephants are taken out of Assam each year and sold to in the illegal wildlife trade.

(More prices of elepahnts and exotic animals for sale.)

Source: Subir Bhaumik, “India police discover elephant smuggling racket,” BBC News, November 3, 2010.

From January to the end of October 2010, there were 2,463 incidents of illegal logging activities across the country of Vietnam.  During the course of investigating these incidents, 44 forest rangers were injured and 4 people were killed.

Source: “Illegal logging rampant in country: ministry,” Viet Nam News, November 1, 2010.

Illegal wildlife trafficking and smuggling in China is estimated to generate over $10 Billion annually.

Source: Kathleen E. McLaughlin, “China’s dangerous appetite for rare animals,” GlobalPost, October 26, 2010.

Between May 2007 and January 2009, more than 22,000 pangolins were killed and 834.4 kilograms of their scales were supplied to wildlife traffickers in Malaysia.

Source: New Strait Times, “22,000 pangolins killed in 14 months,” Asia One News, October 29, 2010.


98 percent of illegal logging timber in Madagascar ends up in China’s furniture manufacturing industry.

Source: Richard Black, “Million-dollar beds fuel Madagascar timber crisis,” BBC News, October 26, 2010.

An estimated $300 Million worth of fish illegally caught off the coast of Somalia by foreign companies each year.

Between 700 to 800 fishing boats are active in the illegal fishing trade in Somalia.

Source: Muhyadin Ahmed Roble, “Foreign companies loot $350m from Somalia,” AfricaNews, October 22, 2010.

In 2009, the wildlife trade in Canada legally imported 77,000 dried or frozen shark fins.

 Source: Larry Pynn, “Imperiled: Shark populations in freefall throughout the world,” Vancouver Sun, October 25, 2010.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that there are over 5,000 tigers held in captivity in the United States as of 2010.

Although some are held in licensed zoos, many are held in backyards and urban apartments.

28 states in the US have laws that make it illegal to own a tiger as a pet, with 17 states maintaining regulations on the ownership. In some states, it is easier to purchase a tiger than a dog.

By comparison, there are around 3,200 tigers that remain in the wild in all of Asia.

Source: Matthew Knight, “U.S. urged to regulate ‘backyard tigers’,” CNN, October 21, 2010.

Wildlife traffickers illegal import over 1,600 protected species into the black market of Japan. The 1,600 species are all listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Source: Kyodo, “Japan hit for trade in rare species,” Japan Times, October 19, 2010.