I saw plastic on picturesque Cornish beaches and found party balloons five miles off the coast at Brighton and saw countless other examples of the impact of climate change and human behaviour on UK waters.
Lewis Pugh, the UN Patron of the Oceans and renowned endurance swimmer, has today completed his latest and most demanding swimming challenge: The Long Swim.
Lewis swam the entirety of The English Channel wearing just a pair of Speedo swimming trunks, a cap and goggles. On completion, Lewis became the first person to swim the length of the English Channel in accordance with Channel Swimming Association rules - the association was on hand in Dover to validate the swim.
He started The Long Swim at Land’s End in Cornwall on Thursday 12 July 2018 and swam an average of 10 kilometres for 50 days. However poor weather conditions and changes in the tide stopped Lewis swimming at all on some days, meaning he carried out a number of additional swims in the middle of the night to make up time, often swimming up to three times per day.
Lewis took on The Long Swim challenge to raise awareness of three distinct environmental issues; plastic pollution in the oceans, commercial overfishing and the impact of climate change.
Following the completion of the swim, Lewis now heads to Westminster for a series of meetings with key environmental figures at Whitehall. The Secretary of State for the Environment, Michael Gove was present in Dover to congratulate Lewis on his challenge and to talk to him about his concerns around current UK policy.
Lewis is calling on the British Government to urgently protect the seas around the UK coast and British Overseas Territories by introducing more Marine Protected Areas around the UK coastline.
The completion of The Long Swim is just the start of a global initiative to encourage governments to do more to protect the earth’s oceans. The Long Swim marks the start of a worldwide campaign entitled Action for Oceans, an initiative that is calling on governments to fully protect at least 30 percent of the world’s oceans by 2030.
Over the past 30 years, Lewis Pugh has pioneered swims in the most challenging environments on earth including the Antarctic, the North Pole and the Himalayas. He has campaigned on behalf of the world's last pristine marine wilderness areas and The Long Swim was Plymouth-born Lewis’ opportunity to bring his message home.
Call to action
Speaking from Shakespeare Beach, following the final swim into the Kent town Lewis commented: "Completing The Long Swim is my biggest achievement in all of the years I have been swimming and campaigning for ocean issues. But I see this as just the start – we now need to see urgent action from the British Government to protect the seas along the UK coastline.
“During The Long Swim, I saw plastic on picturesque Cornish beaches and found party balloons five miles off the coast at Brighton and saw countless other examples of the impact of climate change and human behaviour on UK waters.
"If the British Government doesn’t do more to protect our coastline, it will be our generation, not future ones, who see the true impact of inaction on their coastline.”
Surfers Against Sewage, one of the UK's leading marine conservation charities, is a partner in The Long Swim and hosted regular beach clean-ups involving members of the local community throughout The Long Swim.
Lewis took part in beach cleans in Penzance, Portsmouth, Brighton and will take part in a similar event in Dover before heading to London.
Protecting our oceans
The campaign is also supported by Lead Partner global forex broker FXTM (https://forextime.com), and Speedo as an Official Partner.
Discussing the role of his Lead Partner, Lewis commented: "I'm so grateful to have had FXTM's support during the duration of The Long Swim and I am delighted to be their brand ambassador.
"It is so encouraging that a multi-national business like FXTM can see the issues that I am trying to address and I sincerely hope that the UK government will follow the example they have set by taking decisive action on this issue.”
Discussing the importance of the UK Government taking urgent action, Lewis Pugh continued: "Only 7 square kilometres out of a total of 750,000 square kilometres of the UK’s waters are fully protected and that is frankly shocking.
"The amount of protected water amounts to a mere one-hundred-thousandth of all UK waters and this cannot continue. The British Government must protect the UK coastline properly by introducing fully protected Marine Protected Areas.”
Marianne Brooker is a contributing editor for The Ecologist. This story is based on a press release from Lewis Pugh's PR team. More information on The Long Swim can be found by visiting https://www.lewispughfoundation.org/ and www.lewispugh.com.