Environmental crime is one of the priorities the Maltese presidency will push on the EU's agenda as it maps out the priorities to tackle organised crime.
Home Affairs Minister Carmelo Abela said this morning that environmental crime was one of the more profitable offshoots of organised crime that had serious consequences on human health, biodiversity, climate change and the economy.
He was addressing a panel of European experts part of the environmental crime law enforcement network meeting in Malta.
Mr Abela said it was unfortunate that environmental crime was not always prioritised because of the perception it was victimless.
He said environmental crime was very often linked to other criminal activity.
Roel Willekens, chair of Envicrimenet, which brings together national police forces and agencies, said an Interpol survey last year found that 15 of 34 European countries surveyed said environmental crime was closely linked to corruption.
"People are dying and getting sick because of environmental damage caused by criminal activity, apart from disrupting the economic balance," Mr Willekens said.
Waste management and illegal trade of animals were two of the most important environmental crimes.
He said sharing of intelligence and information between national agencies involved in combatting environmental crimes was of utmost importance.