Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela stressed the impact of environmental crime on society, and highlighted the need for it to be given a higher priority internationally.
He was addressing a meeting of the EnviCrimeNet - a panel of European experts steering committee holding a meeting here in Malta.
"Despite the significant impact on the environment and human health, environmental crime has a history of being considered a victimless crime, and therefore a low priority," Minister Abela said
"Further compounding this issue is that environmental crime encompasses a wide range of offences which wilfully damage the environment and are usually inked to other serious offences like corruption, terrorism, fraud and money laundering. The damaged caused is irreparable and can cause diseases or death, climate change and damage to the food chain."
"Despite serious consequences of such crime, its seriousness is still not fully taken into considerations. Environmental crimes are among the most profitable criminal activity and have a significant impact on society."
"Such profits could be equivalent to profits from illegal drug trafficking."
Minister Carmelo Abela said that the meeting occurring in Malta shows that the issue of environmental crimes should be raised higher on the agenda at the European level. "It is a European issue, and it is important that there be more cooperation between law enforcement agencies and the different countries."
Turning to the local scene, he said, about hunting: "we need to guarantee that laws are observed, so if the hunting season is open for only certain birds, then this must be respected, and part the role of the ALE is to enforce these things. The ALE has its staff and it is good to keep strengthening it. "
"Their primary focus is to ensure that the laws are respected. He said that when there was a major breach, the government had closed the season in the past. If the laws are not observed, not only will the police take steps against those who breach it, but government will consider, if it feels the need, close the season if there is rampant abuse."
Asked about environment crimes and corruption, he said more statistics need to be gathered and more research needs to occur. He said that what came out from the presentation delivered by the Chairperson of the Steering group is that one major concern is that an element of corruption could be linked to environmental crimes.
Roel Willekens, chair of EnviCrimeNet said that environmental crime is not a victimless crime. He stressed the need for cooperation between countries and law enforcement agencies.
Quoting an Interpol report, he said that 15 of 34 European countries surveyed said environmental crime was closely linked to corruption. Nine of the 34 European countries said that it was linked to drug trafficking.