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Legality and Sustainability

Trafficking and overexploitation threaten biodiversity, livelihoods and global security, with severe consequences that range from the collapse of wildlife populations to widespread graft and corruption. USAID is working on many fronts as part of U.S. Government efforts to combat wildlife, fisheries and forestry crime while promoting legal and sustainable solutions.

Credit: Stian Bergeland/Rainforest Foundation Norway/Reuters

Wildlife Crime

Wildlife trafficking—illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products—is one of the largest black markets in the world, measuring billions of dollars a year. The poaching that fuels this trade threatens the survival of iconic species such as elephants, rhinos, tigers, sharks and sea turtles, and weakens national and regional security, economic development and public health. While poachers are the face of the problem, violent criminal networks are behind illicit trade, exploiting humans and nature for profit.

Wildlife crime is a major biodiversity threat that also reduces prospects for sustainable development. Diminishing wildlife and rising insecurity make it harder for fishermen to catch enough fish, prevent pastoralists from grazing livestock in areas frequented by bands of poachers, and deter tourists (and tourism investors) from risky places where wildlife are becoming scarce.

USAID invested more than $50 million in fiscal year 2014 funds to fight poaching, improve wildlife law enforcement and prosecution, disrupt illegal transit, and reduce demand for wildlife products. This four-fold increase from fiscal year 2012 levels provides new or ongoing support for more than 60 long-term activities that combat wildlife crime in 25 countries.

Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) Fishing

Illegality and fraud in fisheries comes at a high cost to people involved in catching, processing and consuming seafood around the world.

The U.S. Action Plan for Combating IUU Fishing and Seafood Fraud outlines 15 recommendations for responding to these issues. Recommendation 6 aims to build international capacity to sustainably manage fisheries and combat IUU fishing and seafood fraud in coordination with a range of partners who share this interest. USAID is contributing toward that goal by maintaining an inventory of cooperation and assistance activities implemented by the broad community of donors, technical groups, government and non-governmental organizations working on these issues.


Illegal Logging and Deforestation

Illegal logging and associated trade has been a global concern and focus area for governments and civil society for the past decade.  Unfortunately, it remains a significant challenge with an estimated value of $30 billion to $100 billion annually.  Timber (or its derivatives) is considered illegal when it is harvested, transported, processed, bought or sold in violation of national or sub-national laws.


In tropical regions, the demand for precious valuable woods such as ebony, mahogany and rosewood have driven these species to near commercial extinction, even within areas designated by governments or for long-term sustainable forest management. These practices have undermined traditional rights and degraded forests of biodiversity and economic value, making them vulnerable to clearing for other land uses, or deforestation.

In fact, the growing world demand for commodities such as soy, oil palm and beef is considered a major driver of tropical deforestation, nearly half of which was found to be illegal in a study by Forest Trends (2014).  This conversion is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions, estimated at 1.47 gigatons of carbon annually (Forest Trends, 2014).

Key Resources

USAID Paani Fact Sheet
Apr 09, 2019 · File

USAID Paani Fact Sheet

The USAID Paani Program (Paani) works to enhance Nepal’s ability to manage water resources for multiple uses and users through an integrated, whole-of-basin approach…

Instructions for Populating the Interactive Inventory of Capacity Building Initiatives to Combat IUU Fishing
Dec 06, 2016 · File

Instructions for Populating the Interactive Inventory of Capacity Building Initiatives to Combat IUU Fishing

A PDF providing instructions for populating the Interactive Inventory of Capacity Building Initiatives to Combat IUU Fishing.

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