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Environmental Crime Legal Framework In Mexico

According to the Mexican constitution, “Any person has the right to a healthy environment for his/her own development and well-being. The State will guarantee the respect to such rights. Environmental damage and deterioration will generate a liability for whoever provokes them in terms of the provisions by the law.

The legislation also states: "Any person has the right of access, provision and drainage of water for personal and domestic consumption in a sufficient, healthy, acceptable and affordable manner. The State will guarantee such rights and the law will define the bases, subsidies and modality for the equitable and sustainable access and use of the freshwater resources, establishing the participation of the Federation, local governments and municipalities, as well as the participation of the citizens for the achievement of such purposes".

The Federal Congress (Congress) can legislate to establish the concurrent authority of the federal, state and municipal governments which regulate, within their jurisdiction, the:

  • Protection of the environment
  • Preservation and restoration of the ecological balance
  • Environmental damage, repair and compensation
  • Featured Legislation

    1988: The General Law on Ecological Equilibrium and Environmental Protection (LGEEPA) was passed. LGEEPA is the primary environmental law, which provides a general legal framework for national legislation on the subject. Through LGEEPA, Congress primarily distributes powers between the three levels of government and sets out overarching policies for environmental regulation, as well as the basic environmental legislation.

    1992: The National Waters Law was enacted, creating an independent federal agency, the National Water Commission (Comisión Nacional del Agua – CNA). The CNA is granted jurisdiction over most of the water planning, permitting, management and enforcement issues and is assisted by a Technical Council that provides policy, fiscal, administrative and scientific advice.

    1996: Decree No. 117 ( Agricultural and Forestry Law of the State of Mexico) was brought into force. The Law seeks to promote the improvement of the conditions of agricultural and forestry production, through the rational use of natural resources, the transfer of the results of scientific and technical research, the organization and training of producers, and the preparation of marketing procedures.

    2000: The General Wildlife Law was signed, serving as the country’s most comprehensive wildlife legislation. It governs the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife and its habitat and is intended to harmonize the federal, state and municipal approaches within their respective jurisdictions.

    2004: The  Social Development Law of the State of Mexico was unveiled. The purpose of this Law is to generate the necessary conditions to favor integral social development in the scope of the State of Mexico, with particular attention to the following objectives: a) guarantee the equal and unconditional right of the entire population to social development and its programs ; b) overcome poverty, marginalization and social exclusion. Among the social rights listed in article 4, it is worth highlighting the right to food. The Cooperation Council for Social Development will be the body linked to the planning, programming and execution in the State of Mexico of the provisions established by this Law.

    2006: Decree No. 183 (Code for Biodiversity of the State of Mexico) was approved, promoting the conservation, preservation, rehabilitation, remediation, improvement and maintenance of ecosystems, recovery and restoration of the ecological balance, the prevention of damage to health and deterioration of biodiversity and the elements that compose it as a whole, the management and promotion of the protection of the environment.

    2007: The Regulation of the Fifth Book of the Code for Biodiversity of the State of Mexico was legislated. The law oversees the preservation, conservation, remediation, restoration, recovery, rehabilitation, protection, promotion for the sustainable use of wildlife and its habitat in the territory of the Condition. Provisions are established on the composition of the State Wildlife Surveillance Council.

    2013: The Federal Law on Environmental Liability (Ley Federal de Responsabilidad Ambiental) (LFRA) was adopted. Under this new law, the cause of action for environmental liability for damages has a statute of limitation of 12 years (instead of five years), starting from the day that the environmental damage and its effects were produced.

    2013: ​​Decree No. 181 (Climate Change Law of the State of Mexico) was introduced, establishing provisions to achieve adaptation to climate change, as well as the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions. It must be applied in accordance with the General Law on Climate Change.

    2014: The Law of Dumping in Mexican Marine Areas (Ley de Vertimientos en las Zonas Marinas Mexicanas) (LVZMM) was drafted. This new law substitutes a former dumping regulation and sets out the new requirements to obtain permits to dump specific substances and materials to Mexican marine areas.

    Featured Case Studies: Transnational Environmental Crime, Human Security, and Biosecurity

    • Criminal groups in Mexico have discovered the illegal poaching of totoaba fish as a means to subsidize other illicit activities. The Center for Biological Diversity in Mexico (Centro para la Diversidad Biológica en México) and the Mexican Environmental Impact Academy (Academia Mexicana de Impacto Ambiental) penned a report in May 2021 on the illicit trade of rare and exotic animals, such as tigers, chinchillas, freshwater turtles, and other species. Of late, totoaba fish have come under the radar of law enforcement personnel, prompting the federal Attorney General’s Office (Fiscalía General de la República, FGR) to seize four properties in San Felipe, Baja California after a joint investigation by multiple agencies determined the buildings were  a part of an illegal trafficking ring of totoaba fish. Further investigations reveal that the totoaba fish were en route to China as part of a transnational criminal venture. Totoaba is a species of saltwater fish native to the Gulf of California and has become increasingly endangered due to poaching. Specifically, totoaba’s swim bladder has become a hot commodity in select parts of East Asia for use in traditional  medicines and as a culinary  delicacy. Illegally harvested totoaba bladders and meat feed a global appetite today, with one kilogram  being sold for as much as $100,000 U.S. dollars on the black market in China. According to a  report by Earth League International, a non-governmental organization, criminal groups in northwestern Mexico are drawn to totoaba trafficking because it can generate profits comparable to those gained from drug trafficking.

    References and Further Reading


    Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources of Mexico: