British endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh is to undertake seven swims in the Seven Seas to highlight the need for protected areas in oceans around the world.
He will be the first to undertake a long-distance swim in each of the classical Seven Seas, the Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black Sea, Red Sea, Arabian Sea and the North Sea, ending with an 100km (62 miles) swim up the Thames to Parliament.
Pugh, who will complete the seven swims this month, is backing calls by the United Nations for 10% of the world’s seas – both around countries and on the high seas – to be declared marine protected areas by 2020 to safeguard fish and other wildlife.
Just 3% of the world’s marine areas are protected, compared to around 13% of the world’s land area.
Pugh, who has previously undertaken swims at the North Pole and in a glacial lake in Everest to highlight rising global temperatures, said seas were threatened by pollution, overfishing and climate change. “If we don’t do something about it, we’re going to be living in a world devoid of wonder and beauty, and frankly not sustainable. If we’ve achieved it on land, we can do it in the sea.”
Marine protected areas are like national parks in the sea, with varying protections which could include measures such as preventing fishing, he said.
“If you care about the environment, about oceans, food security, these incredible animals that live in the seas, marine protected areas is a way forward. We rely entirely on our oceans to survive, it’s not as if we have an option, we have to do this,” he said.
Swimming through pollution
He said the Seven Seas he would be swimming in, for distances ranging from 1km to 100km, were some of the most polluted and overfished in the world.
“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.”
They would also present some particular challenges, he said. The swim in the Arabian Sea was originally due to be off the coast of Mumbai, but Indian authorities prevent swimming off the coast during the Monsoon, so it will take place off the coast of Oman.
In Monsoon season he has been told to expect a rough ride on the sea. “It’ll be a tough swim,” he said.
Final leg urges marine protection
The final leg of his swimming odyssey will see him swim up the Thames from Southend, Essex, to Westminster to deliver a petition to Prime Minister David Cameron urging him to support marine protected areas.
Pugh said the challenge with the Thames was that it was tidal, so he could only swim for six hours at a time, while the tide was coming in, before getting out and waiting for the outgoing tide, which it was impossible to swim against. He also said he expected to get ill from the pollution in the Thames, as he had done when he swam the river from its source to the sea in 2006.
Pugh, who is from Plymouth and has lived in South Africa, is backed in his campaign by high profile figures such as Prince Albert II of Monaco and Desmond Tutu, who joined the swimmer at his final training session to wish him well.
Source: The Guardian