During August Go4word was responsible for generating over R11 000000 worth of media coverage for renowned endurance swimmer and United Nation’s Environment Programme (UNEP)’s Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pugh when he swam with one purpose: to put Marine Protected Areas on the global agenda. His latest campaign was to swim the seven seas of the world to put marine protected areas on the global agenda.
He became the first person to undertake a long distance swim in each of the Seven Seas: the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black, Red, Arabian and North Sea.
These seas are amongst the most polluted and overfished in the world and Lewis Pugh’s campaign, Seven Swims in the Seven Seas for 1 Reason, highlighted the need for urgent action.
The United Nations urged all nations to set aside at least 10% of the world’s oceans as effective and well-managed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2020.
“The establishment of Marine Protected Areas is a critical component of global efforts to reverse the degradation of our oceans,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UN Environment Programme (UNEP) Executive Director Achim Steiner. “UNEP applauds Lewis Pugh’s latest expedition, which will spotlight the importance of MPAs and increase global attention to the plight of the world’s oceans.”
“Land-based pollution, poorly managed coastal development, overfishing and climate change are all major threats which can be reduced if governments work together and set ambitious targets. Over the last 40 years, the UNEP Regional Seas Conventions and Action Plans have actively supported member states in such efforts, including in the creation and management of Marine Protected Areas,” he added.
Approximately 13% of the world’s land lies in protected areas, but less than 3% of the oceans are protected, and much of that receives little protection in practice.
Lewis Pugh, a maritime lawyer, said: “This was my most ambitious expedition yet: Seven swims in each of the classical Seven Seas. The logistics were complex. The challenges were many. But the aim was simple: to protect our wonderful seas and their precious marine wildlife.
“The North, Aegean and Mediterranean Seas have been drastically overfished. Many coral reefs are in decline – through habitat destruction in the Red and severe bleaching in the Arabian Sea. The Black Sea is dreadfully polluted. And the rich wetlands of the Adriatic no longer provide a safe haven for thousands of migrating birds.
“That’s why we are calling on nations to proclaim Marine Protected Areas to safeguard all our seas as a matter of extreme urgency in the same way as terrestrial national parks gave us the Serengeti, the Kruger, and Yellowstone, and ensure that future generations can marvel at elephants and lions, bison and wolves.
“It’s hard to imagine a world without those wild spaces. It would be a very baron world indeed. But that’s exactly what our seas and oceans will look like if we don’t act now.”
“MPAs are great for fish, great for tourism and least we forget it, great for us humans. We rely on the health of our oceans to survive. MPAs improve the health of our oceans by protecting and restoring marine habitats, they protect species and help rebuild fish stocks and they increase resilience to environmental changes.
Lewis is a leading figure in efforts to protect the world’s oceans. Over a period of 27 years, he has pioneered swims in the most hostile waters on earth. In 2007 his swim across an open patch of sea at the North Pole to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice was global news, as was his 2010 swim across a newly formed glacial lake on Mount Everest which drew significant attention to the impact of climate change in the Himalayas.
A number of high profile dignitaries supported Lewis’s campaign. Desmond Tutu joined Lewis at his final training session to wish him well and said: “When we damage the environment and don’t protect our resources we create the conditions necessary for conflict. However when we protect the environment we bring peace. I salute Lewis in his efforts.”
Prince Albert II of Monaco welcomed Lewis as he completed his first swim in the Mediterranean Sea in Monaco.