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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 corruption. As part of collaborative U.S. Government efforts, USAID works on many fronts to combat wildlife, fisheries and forestry crime while promoting legal and long-term solutions.

Credit: Stian Bergeland/Rainforest Foundation Norway/Reuters

Wildlife Crime

Wildlife trafficking—the 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 threatens biodiversity while also reducing sustainable development gains. Diminishing wildlife coupled with rising insecurity challenge fishers' ability to catch enough fish, prevent livestock grazing in areas frequented by poachers, and deter tourists (and tourism investors) from unstable places where iconic wildlife are becoming scarce.

In 2017, USAID invested about $70 million to address wildlife trafficking, approximately 25 percent of the Agency’s budget for biodiversity conservation. Through more than 65 projects in 25 countries, USAID and partners are making it more difficult—and costly—for people to poach wildlife, avoid legal consequences, move wildlife and wildlife products across borders, and buy wildlife products in physical and online markets.

Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) Fishing

More than three billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for jobs and food—the export value of fish from developing countries is more than rice, sugar and coffee combined. Illegality and fraud in fisheries comes at a high cost to people involved in catching, processing and consuming seafood around the world.

USAID invests more than $33 million per year in about 15 countries to promote sustainable fisheries and conserve marine biodiversity. This work includes building international capacity by maintaining an inventory of cooperation and assistance activities implemented by the donors, technical groups, governments, 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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