Environmental crime

What is environmental crime?

Activities that may constitute an environmental crime under Commonwealth law include actions that have a significant impact on matters of national environmental significance, namely:

  • World Heritage properties
  • National Heritage places
  • wetlands of international importance
  • threatened species and ecological communities
  • migratory species
  • Commonwealth marine areas
  • nuclear actions (including uranium mining).

Environmental law

Environmental offences under Commonwealth legislation are found in a number of different acts. Some of these are:

Agencies involved in investigation of environmental crime

The protection of the Australian environment is an issue the Australian Government and the AFP take very seriously. A number of Australian Government departments have a role to play in the detection and enforcement of laws designed to protect our environment.

Australian Federal Police

The AFP is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating crimes against the Commonwealth of Australia. The AFP will take a lead role in the investigation of the environmental crime where the complexity, sensitivity or degree of harm caused to the environment necessitates the AFP's involvement as the lead investigating authority.

In general the AFP implements a joint agency approach to investigations into environmental crime, enabling the specialist capabilities and resources of other agencies to be used. This approach is effective in ensuring the best outcome for the environment and the Australian community.

Department of the Environment

The Department of the Environment is the Australian Government agency responsible for administering most of the Commonwealth Acts relating specifically to the environment. The department investigates matters that have a significant impact on aspects of the environment that are nationally significant, on cultural heritage matters and on the import/export of threatened species.

Australian Border Force

The Australian Border Force is the Australian Government agency that manages the security and integrity of Australia's borders. The Australian Border Force plays an important role in detecting and investigating the illegal movement of environmental and heritage goods.

Australian Fisheries Management Authority

The Australian Fisheries Management Authority (AFMA) is the statutory authority responsible for the detection and investigation of illegal activities by both domestic and foreign fishing boats in the Australian Fishing Zone and Commonwealth managed fisheries.

Australian Maritime Safety Authority

Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) is responsible for the enforcement of environmental standards for ships in Commonwealth jurisdiction. This generally relates to pollution such as oil spills and waste caused by shipping.

Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service

Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) detects, investigates and prosecutes where export or quarantine laws are breached. Australia's export and quarantine laws protect Australia's animal, plant, human health and the environment.

State government agencies

State government environment and resource agencies have a key role in ensuring the protection of the environment. Where matters do not relate to Commonwealth law or are not matters of national environmental significance, the State agencies would normally be the most appropriate level of government to investigate environmental offences.

Reporting environmental crime

If you have information relating to actions that may harm or have the potential to cause harm to the Australian environment or alleged breaches of Commonwealth environment laws, report this directly to the appropriate Australian Government department.

If you are unsure where to report information then it can be sent to Crime stoppers.


Significant impact

This can include actions which will or are likely to decrease the survival of a threatened species. The complete criteria, for assessing significant impacts can be obtained from the Department of the Environment.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement designed to ensure that international trade in wild plants and animals does not threaten their survival. Australia is a signatory to CITES.

Related websites

If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2021-22

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

Policing and community news from the AFP