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Department of Justice

The mission of the Department of Justice is to enforce the law and defend the interests of the United States according to the law; to ensure public safety against threats foreign and domestic; to provide federal leadership in preventing and controlling crime; to seek just punishment for those guilty of unlawful behavior; and to ensure fair and impartial administration of justice for all Americans.

The Environment and Natural Resources Division (ENRD) is a core litigating component of the U.S. Department of Justice that handles environmental and natural resources litigation on behalf of the United States.  The mission of ENRD is to enforce the Nation’s civil and criminal environmental laws and hazardous waste laws, ensure the protection and proper utilization of the Nation’s natural resources, and handle cases relating to tribal rights and resources.

ENRD’s Environmental Crimes Section and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices across the country handle criminal enforcement of federal laws related to fisheries, primarily under the Lacey Act.  The Department of Justice works on these cases with the Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service, the Food and Drug Administration, and the Coast Guard, as well as state and local law enforcement officials.

The Department of Justice works in the international sphere by assisting and collaborating with enforcement partners in other countries that seek to stop illegal fishing.  ENRD trains foreign counterparts on the legal, investigative, prosecutorial, and judicial aspects of enforcing wildlife and fisheries laws.  The Department of Justice also addresses IUU fishing and related issues through its work as co-chair of the Presidential Task Force on Wildlife Trafficking.  In addition, ENRD’s Law and Policy Section, with the support of the Environmental Crimes Section and the Wildlife and Marine Resources Section, represents the Department in a range of policy, legislative, and international matters related to fisheries laws and associated international treaties.

Based on this experience, the Department of Justice helps implement the Task Force’s recommendations related to enforcement, capacity building, and international agreements.


ENRD’s authority to prosecute IUU fishing and seafood fraud cases derives from a variety of sources, including:

  • Lacey Act
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Marine Mammal Protection Act
  • Antarctic Marine Living Resources Convention Act of 1984
  • Title 18 of the U.S. Code
  • High Seas Fishing Compliance Act