Illegal fishing, illegal wildlife trade and harvesting, illegal logging and illegal deforestation to produce commodities are all considered nature crimes. These pose major threats around the world. Nature crimes threaten biodiversity, accelerate climate change, violate human rights and increase the risk of pandemics. They also undermine rule of law and security and deter investment and economic growth in many sectors.

These crimes are not a discrete issue. They intersect with each other and with crimes such as narcotics and arms trade and human rights and labor abuses. This convergence among crimes demands a convergent approach to analysis and interventions – a priority for this activity.

Ivory burn pyre.
Kenyan official prepares to burn confiscated elephant ivory. U.S. Embassy Nairobi/Flickr

WRI, together with the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) and other leaders in the field, aims to strengthen the knowledge, capacity and resolve needed to address nature crimes. This includes crimes threatening the health of fish stocks, wildlife and forests, and the billions of people who depend on them for legal, sustainable livelihoods. 

Countering Nature Crime engages diverse stakeholders to prevent and respond to these crimes. Partners range from law enforcement agencies to industry associations and specifically engage Indigenous and local communities standing up for their land and natural resources rights, and their allies in civil society and the press.

Illegally harvested dried seahorses.
Illegally harvested dried seahorses for sale in Guangzhou, China. Photo by Chip Barber/WRI

The Countering Nature Crime (CNC) initiative is a five-year, $25 million partnership funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The partnership’s goals are to:

  • Strengthen and support traceability and transparency systems for selected high-risk supply chains and geographies.
  • Enhance criminal justice approaches, including law enforcement, prosecution, restorative justice and other regulatory efforts.
  • Reduce demand for illegal wildlife products using behavioral science.
  • Increase the capacity of environmental defenders to protect their rights and safely investigate and report nature crime.
  • Scale an integrated, convergent approach to countering nature crime across crime types and stakeholder groups.
  • Strengthen the will and capacity of financial institutions and their regulators to detect and disrupt financial services used to facilitate nature crime.
Napoleon Wrasse.
The Napoleon wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus), a legally-protected species of the western Pacific region that is regularly poached for the Hong Kong-based live reef food fish trade, where it sells for hundreds of dollars per kilo. Photo by TatianaMironenko/iStock

This work is supported by the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) and the Meridian Institute, as well as local partners in key regions. CNC will engage across diverse geographies including the Amazon and Congo Basins, Mesoamerica and Southeast Asia. CNC also supports and draws on the expertise and membership of the Nature Crime Alliance, a multi-stakeholder partnership launched in mid-2023, for which WRI hosts the Secretariat.


Cover image: An official from IBAMA, the environmental protection agency of Brazil, surveys illegally harvested lumber from a protected forest. Image by Fernando Augusto/Ibama, Wikmedia Commons