Former President of Costa Rica, former Global Ocean Commissioner and co-founder of  Ocean Unite, Jose Maria Figueres, said in Mexico on Friday that illegal fishing not only harms the oceans, but trails other objectionable activities in its wake.

Photograph of Jose Maria Figueres, former president of Costa Rica (1994-1998) during the World Ocean Summit in Cancun, Mexico, Mar. 8, 2018. EPA-EFE/Alonso Cupul

“This illegal activity, in addition to damaging the ocean and over-fishing species, comes with other illicit activities, such as arms, human and drug trafficking,” Figueres said in an interview with EFE on the sidelines of the World Ocean Summit in Playa Del Carmen, Quintana Roo, Mexico.

Figueres said that people engaged in clandestine fishing – a business that generates US$23.5 billion a year – tend to pursue other illegal activities to boost their income.

He also spoke about the need to stop climate change in order to diminish the acidification of the oceans and the consequent rise in water temperature.

“Many countries still see the fight against climate change and the lowering of carbon emissions as a cost, instead of seeing it as the opportunity it represents,” Figueres said, adding that changing the environment paradigm would mean “a much more efficient green economy.”

Figueres emphasized the need to develop public policies that send a message to markets to move toward this “green economy.”

“My fear is that we do not take advantage of this window of opportunity to make changes before it’s too late,” he said. “What greatly motivates me is that in all these transformations, I see great opportunities to re-launch the global economy.”

Figueres praised the Latin American countries who have “made a much stronger commitment toward ocean conservation” over the last few years, prompting a “nice competition” to see which country is able to better conserve the ocean.

Figueres is co-president of the Pacific Ocean Assembly, an organization aimed at uniting Latin American countries around the goal of ocean conservation.

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