Endurance swimmer completes swim for better marine protection

By: Clare Fischer
Date posted: 29 August 2018

Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has welcomed British swimmer, Lewis Pugh, as he arrived in Dover, after a gruelling seven week-long, 330 mile, swim.

Lewis Pugh swims
© Kelvin Trautman

He is a fantastic advocate of better protected and cleaner seas, which can only be helped by his efforts and the amazing publicity that ‘The Long Swim’ has raised.

Richard Harrington,
MCS Head of Communications

The endurance swimmer’s “The Long Swim” came to an end at Shakespeare Beach, 49 days after he set off from Land’s End in Cornwall wearing just speedos, cap and goggles - those are the rules as set out by the Channel Swimming Association who will authenticate the swim.

As he prepared to swim the final stretch he said he was both ‘excited and relieved’.

His campaign, which he anticipated would be his “toughest” swim yet, has been highlighting the amount of plastic waste entering the seas and the lack of meaningful protection for the world’s oceans. Pugh wants to see 30% of global seas protected and has voiced his anger that conservation zones around the UK have little protection.

Lewis Pugh, who has been swimming the world’s oceans for three decades, has been covering 10km to 20km (six to 12 miles) per day. He’s taken over half a million strokes, burned 98,000 calories and been stung by numerous jellyfish.

Richard Harrington, MCS Head of Communications, said: “Lewis has achieved an amazing feat, swimming all the way from the tip of Cornwall to Dover in Kent. But the challenge has been greater than just a personal one. He is a fantastic advocate of better protected and cleaner seas, which can only be helped by his efforts and the amazing publicity that ‘The Long Swim’ has raised.”

The environmental campaigner and UN Patron of the Oceans also took part in beach cleans along the way. Before setting off, he warned of a “shocking” figure which said just seven square kilometres of 750,000 of UK coastal waters were fully protected.

He said: “My message is going to be very, very simple: our oceans are in crisis.

“Unless we take real, serious action now, it’s very difficult for me to see how they can recover.

“It’s not something you can keep putting off and putting off and putting off. We’ve done that for too long.”

Writing on the Sky News website about Lewis Pugh’s achievement, Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, who went on board Pugh’s support boat before the final stretch, said: “In battling through storms, jellyfish and a painful shoulder injury, Lewis has shown grit, courage and inspirational leadership.

“He has also kept marine protection and our suffering seas at the top of the agenda - supported by Sky’s brilliant Ocean Rescue campaign. I am with Lewis, fellow campaigners and other governments in recognising the need to do much more to value, protect and enhance our natural world.

“I am glad that our government is leading the way, particularly in tackling the scourge of plastics in our seas.

“But there is, I know, more to do. We have taken action to ensure that 36% of England’s waters are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), zones designed to safeguard rare, threatened and nationally important habitats and species.

“And we need to ensure that our MCZs are operating effectively - providing the right level of protection which allows our seas to be truly healthy and resilient - home to growing numbers of fish and other marine wildlife.

“Making sure our seas are healthy is a challenge this government is determined to meet through our 25-year environment plan.”

Pugh hugged the shoreline around the White Cliffs on the final couple of kilometers towards Shakespeare Beach as heavy rain hammered down. His wife, Antoinette, said her husband was a pioneer, who had been planning this expedition for almost two years. She said the support he had received was unbelievable and that he’d probably have to take it easy, rest his shoulders which had repetitive strain injury, but would still do a little bit of training.

Mrs Pugh said her husband was passionate about what he does and had a love of the ocean who was brought up to ‘protect what you love.’

Pugh expressed his concern that he hadn’t seen very much wildlife during the 330 mile swim.

There was some late drama as he swam too close to the beach and had to shouted out by his support team so he could join a group of swimmers who had come to escort him through his last few strokes. At 13.36, 49 days after he started, he touched the harbour wall, walked up to the beach to go through two specific flags. He was congratulated by the Environment Secretary and Pugh once again said how little wildlife he had seen among the many jellyfish. “When I started out I didn’t think it was possible, but we made it.”

Lewis Pugh will now attend the G7 and the High Seas Conventions where ocean health will be on both agendas. Pugh told Sky News that “we must listen to what the jellyfish are telling us - our oceans are warming.”. He told Michael Gove that the UK must talk the talk and do the job when it comes to marine protection.

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