Environmental crime is the perpetration of harms against the environment that violate current law. The term environmental harm is often interchanged with environmental crime and, for some, any activity that has a deleterious effect on the environment is considered an environmental crime. At the other end of the spectrum, the harm may be conceived of as a crime per se only if it is subject to criminal prosecution and criminal sanction.
The activities that are recognised in Australia as environmental crimes include:
* pollution or other contamination of air, land and water;
* illegal discharge and dumping of, or trade in, hazardous and other regulated waste;
* illegal trade in ozone-depleting substances;
* illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing;
* illegal trade in (protected) flora and fauna and harms to biodiversity;
* illegal logging and timber trade;
* illegal native vegetation clearance; and
* water theft.
Compared with other crimes, environmental crime has taken longer to be accepted as a genuine category of crime. Changing perceptions about the vulnerability of the environment, particularly with respect to long-term outcomes of environmentally harmful practices, has altered this view to the extent that most behaviour with a potential environmental consequence is now tightly regulated.
Environmental crime has received some research attention in Australia but little in the way of a comprehensive account. This report aims to address this by assembling the available literature to examine the nature and extent of environmental crime in Australia and the laws and other processes in place to prevent, deter and sanction environmental offences.