Gao, Mali: Photography by C4ADS

Natural Resources Cell


The Sentry: Conflict Financing
Environmental Crimes Fusion Cell

Natural Resources Cell

Corruption perpetuates illegal environmental degradation and exploitation in resource-rich countries. C4ADS’ Natural Resources Cell aims to counter illicit resource extraction by investigating the beneficial ownership networks behind these shadow industries. In particular, we seek to determine complicit importers and other actors by identifying those who enable or engage in the illicit movement of natural resources, and by mapping natural resources supply chains to illuminate differences between legal, illegal, and “gray area” actors. Current projects extend throughout the Americas, Africa, and East and Southeast Asia.


August 13, 2019

The value generated from illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing is estimated to be between $10 billion and $36.4 billion annually, making it the third most lucrative natural resource crime, following timber and mining. It continues to pose one of the greatest threats to the world’s marine ecosystems while destabilizing the food and job security of billions around the world. Actors engaging in IUU fishing also depend on other criminal conduct to continue operating at sea and launder illicit catch into the supply chain. Despite the scale of IUU fishing and its links to other crime types, IUU operators continue to exploit weak enforcement and a lack of transparency in the global fishing industry as they operate under a veil of secrecy.

By framing IUU fishing as a problem linked to onshore crimes and facilitators, governments and law enforcement can rely on additional authorities to pursue the networks that sustain vessel activity at sea.



August 22, 2017

Once essential to the economy of the Gulf of California in Mexico, the totoaba fish has suffered a precipitous decline over the past century due to overfishing. The problem reached its zenith in the 1970s, resulting in a ban on totoaba fishing, and the species' receipt of the highest levels of protection under Mexican, U.S., and international law. After a few decades of comparative calm, the totoaba is under attack once again. Illegal fishermen hoping to amass a few kilograms of the totoaba's famed bladders--potentially earning them over a year's salary in a single night--are destabilizing the remaining totoaba population.

But the totoaba's high value signals trouble for more than just the continued viability of the species; the nets used to catch them, called gillnets, are devastating marine life in the Gulf. One species in particular, the vaquita, the world's smallest porpoise species, has suffered disproportionately from the resurgence of totoaba poaching. A reclusive and shy animal, the vaquita have suffered substantial losses at the hands of totoaba poachers, declining from 567 individuals in 1997 to an estimated 26 by May 2017.

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