Endurance swimmer urges UK to set example on ocean protection

Endurance swimmer Lewis Pugh has called for the UK to “set the example” on ocean protection by properly conserving the seas in its care.

In a blog to mark the second anniversary of the UK’s call to protect 30% of the oceans by 2030, Mr Pugh – who campaigned for the move in a swim the length of the English Channel – said consistent efforts were needed to achieve the goal.

The UK Government made the call at the UN General Assembly two years ago, and a year later formed the Global Ocean Alliance inviting other nations to support the 30% by 2030 goal, with more than 20 countries now signed on.

But Mr Pugh, who has also swum in places such as Antarctica, the Arctic, and the seas of South Georgia to raise awareness of the need to protect the oceans, said he often saw governments setting targets but not following up “with the funding or the hard graft needed to reach them”.

He compared protecting the oceans to training for his swim up the Channel, which required consistent efforts, and said governments could learn from athletes on that front.

Mr Pugh urged the Government to enact the Benyon review of marine protection in UK waters it commissioned, by creating highly protected marine areas in home waters, where all damaging human activities are banned.

And there should be an increase in “full and proper protection” in overseas territories such as Ascension Island, St Helena, Tristan da Cunha and South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, he urged.

Mr Pugh, UN patron of the oceans, said: “The world is reeling from the effects of Covid-19, and we are in the midst of Brexit.

“We don’t know what other storms are on the horizon. But we can’t let these crises distract us.

“The UK has to keep its eye on the 30% target, and work consistently every day to get there. Our oceans depend on it.”