Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions



As community awareness of the need to protect the environment increases, so does awareness of environmental crime. 

Environmental crime covers a wide range of Commonwealth offences, including the illegal trade in endangered species and plants, illegal fishing, offending in protected heritage places and Commonwealth marine parks, and environmental pollution such as the illegal disposal of waste and dumping of oil.

Defendants are generally financially motivated as there may be a perception there is a low risk of being caught for this type of crime.

Key legislation

Main offences

  • Fisheries Management Act 1991 section 100(2) using a foreign boat for fishing in the Australian Fishing Zone (AFZ);
  • Environmental Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 section 303EK importing a live specimen.


The range of penalties applied by the courts in these matters can be viewed by reading our environmental matters case reports.

Partner agencies

A number of agencies are involved in detecting, referring and investigating these crimes, including:

  • Australian Federal Police The AFP is the primary law enforcement agency responsible for investigating crimes against Commonwealth laws. Investigations often involve a joint approach with other agencies.
  • Agriculture, Water and Environment  The Department is responsible for administering the majority of Commonwealth Acts relating to the environment. This includes investigating cultural heritage matters and the import/export of threatened species.
  • Australian Border Force The ABF detects and investigates the illegal movement of environmental or heritage goods.
  • Australian Fisheries Management Authority AFMA is the statutory authority responsible for detecting and investigating both domestic and foreign fishing boats in Australian fishing zones.
  • Australian Maritime Safety Authority AMSA enforces environmental standards for ships in the Commonwealth jurisdiction - they typically refer matters related to pollution, oil spills and waste caused by shipping.
  • Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority The Authority is responsible for ensuring compliance and enforcement of matters impacting on the heritage and habitat of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.