UK endurance swimmer, ocean advocate and UN Patron for the Oceans Lewis Pugh, 44, will undertake the seventh and final leg of the Seven Swims in The Seven Seas for 1 Reason challenge in London this week. In doing so, Lewis will become the first person to undertake a long distance swim in each of the Seven Seas.
The Seven Swims in The Seven Seas for 1 Reason challenge was launched earlier this month to raise awareness of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) – national parks of the seas. Globally, there are around 5,000 MPAs, together covering an area approximately 2.85 million km² , equivalent to the area of Argentina. MPAs account for just 0.8% of the world’s total ocean area and represent only 2% of the ocean under national jurisdiction . Moreover, just 10% of MPAs are registered as marine reserves – oceans legally protected against fishing, human development or the removal of animals and plants . The expedition aims to highlight the need and importance of MPAs and marine reserves in a sustainable world. It is hoped that the expedition will encourage maritime nations worldwide to commit to the greater protection of our seas, placing the issue on the national and international agenda. The UN hopes that at least 10% of the world’s oceans will become MPAs or marine reserves by 2020.
A number of high-profile dignitaries have supported Lewis’ expedition including Desmond Tutu, who visited Lewis at his final training session, and Prince Albert II who greeted the swimmer at the conclusion of the expedition’s first leg in Monte-Carlo. The latter has been a significant supporter of MPAs and has designated the whole of Monaco’s waters as an MPA. That is in stark contrast to the Mediterranean Sea as a whole where over 90% of bottom dwelling fish in are over exploited.
In an interview with the Times of Oman, Lewis confirmed that it was his “most ambitious expedition yet: Seven swims in each of the classical Seven Seas. The logistics are complex. The challenges are many. But the aim is simple: to protect our wonderful seas and their precious marine wildlife”.
The pioneering expedition has already seen Lewis tackle long-distance swims in the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black, Red and Arabian seas (see map, above). The seventh and final leg begins this week in the North Sea and progresses up the River Thames towards London. According the expedition’s website, the North Sea has suffered from ‘decades of trawling’ which have destroyed many miles of delicate seabed. Despite offering many MPAs, the UK does not currently offer any marine protection in the North Sea. Lewis’ swim will conclude with a visit to Parliament, where he’ll call for a ban on mobile fishing gear in MPAs to restore much-depleted habitats.
To find out more about the Seven Swims in The Seven Seas for 1 Reason challenge, visit the official website. To follow Lewis’ progress in London you can find him on Twitter @LewisPugh, Facebook LewisPugh, or via #7swims.
Lewis has been accompanied throughout the expedition by photographer Kelvin Trautman and filmmaker Ben Brown. A number of short films documenting the expedition’s legs in each of the Seven Seas can be found on Lewis’ YouTube channel, with daily behind-the-scene vlogs uploaded to Ben Brown’s channel. Images of the expedition can be found on the United Nations Environmental Programme website.
Lewis’ achievements are immense. Not only has the athlete completed seven long-distance swims in the Seven Seas in less than a month, an arduous task in itself, but he has managed to put MPAs and ocean marine reserves on the map in the process. Lewis is no stranger to long distance swimming in extreme locations having already completed swims in Antarctic, the Arctic Circle and in the Himalayas. His efforts to campaign for the protection of our oceans should be admired and celebrated. Lewis’ speech at the BIF Conference was voted as one of the “7 most inspiring speeches on the web”, and it appears it requires an accomplished public speaker and ocean advocate to highlight an issue many are content to ignore. Unfortunately, actions speak louder than words, or swims as the case may be for this expedition. The protection of the oceans requires the willingness of multiple governments and heads of state to commit to the long-term sustainability of our oceans, something which, for the short-term at least, is uncertain. _________________________________________________________________________________________________
Featured homepage image: Kelvin Trautman
Information taken from http://www.LewisPugh.com unless stated.
Statistics from:  ProtectPlanetOcean.org;  USGS WaterFacts.