Pioneer Swimmer and UNEP Patron for Oceans Lewis Pugh to Swim Seven Seas in Next Global Campaign di, aug 5, 2014

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Nairobi, 5 August 2014 - Renowned ocean swimmer Lewis Pugh, one of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)'s Patron for Oceans, has announced his next global campaign with the aim of raising awareness among the public and policy makers about the importance of creating dedicated Marine Protected Areas.

The Mediterranean, Adriatic, Aegean, Black, Red, Arabian and North Sea are some of the most polluted and over-fished seas in the world and the pioneering campaign, Seven Swims in the Seven Seas for One Reason, will see Mr. Pugh become the first person to undertake long distance swims in each of the Seven Seas.

The United Nations is urging all nations to set aside at least 10 per cent of their waters as a network of well-managed and well-designed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) by 2020. In addition, the Convention on Biological Diversity works specifically to promote the recovery of marine and coastal biodiversity and fisheries resources, and to control land-based sources of pollution.

Sponsored by the Living Oceans Foundation, Seacom and The Oak Foundation, Seven Swims in the Seven Seas for One Reason aims to encourage policy makers in each country to meet this target as well as educate the public and media about MPAs and their benefits.

"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 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 Programme has actively supported member states in such efforts, including in the creation and management of Marine Protected Areas," he added.

Approximately 13 per cent of the world's land lies in a protected area, but less than 3 per cent of the ocean's surface is protected - nearly all of that in coastal areas. As a maritime lawyer, Mr. Pugh is also working to assist countries in passing the relevant legislation needed to create and maintain MPAs within compliance guidelines set by the UN.

"This is my most ambitious expedition yet. The logistics are complex. The challenges are many. But the aim is simple: to protect our wonderful seas and their precious marine wildlife," said Mr. Pugh.

"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," he added.

Mr. Pugh is a leading figure in global 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 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.

He will be joined along the way by high profile dignitaries supporting his campaign, including Prince Albert II of Monaco, who will be sailing alongside him during the Mediterranean Sea swim.

Other key supporters include Desmond Tutu, who met with Mr. Pugh ahead of his launch.

Follow Lewis's progress via his website, www.lewispugh.com,Twitter @LewisPugh #7Seas and Facebook - Lewis Pugh.

Notes to Editors:

For further information, interviews and pictures throughout Lewis' journey please contact Louise Plank or Victoria Hartley-Wilson at Plank PR, 020 8995 3936.

Seven Swims in the Seven Seas for One Reason Schedule:

    Mediterranean Sea, 7-9 August 2014, Monte Carlo, Monaco

It's the ancient sea of Homer's Odyssey, it connects Europe, Africa and Asia, and although it holds less than 1 per cent of the world's ocean waters, it is home to over 6 per cent of the world's marine species (and you won't find a quarter of those species anywhere else on earth). But along with the closed nature of this sea, and the intensity and range of human impacts on it, the Mediterranean has suffered severe declines in many species and habitats. Over-fishing is a major threat, and requires tighter regulation. MPAs are desperately needed to conserve species and habitats. Monaco is the first and only nation in the world to have designated all of her seas as MPAs. Lewis will begin his Seven Seas campaign with a swim off Monte Carlo to honour those efforts, and hopes that other nations will be inspired by Monaco's efforts to improve their MPA networks.

    Adriatic Sea, 10-13 August 2014, Zadar, Croatia (Kornati Islands)

It's a long flight from Africa to Northern Europe, and the Adriatic Sea provides a vital respite for migratory birds. Many bird species use the Adriatic's coast and wetlands to rest and recuperate before journeying on. Sadly, hunters also anticipate the rest period; they lie in wait for the exhausted birds and pick them off in their thousands. The critically endangered slender-billed curlew has been reduced to as few as 50 individuals in the world. Lewis is dedicating his Croatian swim off Zadar to highlighting the near extinction of this unassuming species, and the tragic loss of many others. Along with a call for more MPAs, this swim will highlight the need for a ban on bird hunting in and around MPAs with vulnerable bird populations.

    Aegean Sea, 14-16 August 2014, Athens, Greece

The Mediterranean Monk Seal was once plentiful in the Aegean Sea, but after years of being deliberately shot and accidentally killed in fishing gear, numbers in Greece have plummeted to around 200 animals ? around half the remaining world population. This makes it one of the most endangered mammals in the world. The Monk Seal's timid nature means that even slight disturbances can displace it from its last few breeding sites. Lewis's swim off Athens, Greece, draws attention to the plight of an animal on the brink of extinction, and calls for better co-operation and strictly protected MPAs, especially in Gyaros, to enable recovery of this gentle species.

    Black Sea, 17-19 August 2014, Istanbul, Turkey

Almost entirely enclosed by land, the Black Sea is especially vulnerable to pollution from its shores, rivers and visiting ships. The dramatic explosion of invasive comb jelly populations here visibly demonstrates the devastating impacts of ballast water pollution on an ecosystem, which has no natural defence against this species. Better regulation of pollution is helping the Black Sea recover from the ecological collapse it suffered in the 1990s, but it remains poorly protected through MPAs. Lewis's swim here highlights the need for greater protection, especially in the north, east and south of the Black Sea.

    Red Sea, 20-22 August 2014, Aqaba, Jordan (Aqaba Marine Park to Tala Bay)

The Red Sea is adorned with luscious coral reefs, sea-grass meadows and mangrove forests, and characterised by a dazzling array of fish, dolphins, turtles, corals and the enigmatic dugong. Mangroves are of particular importance to both people and wildlife, and are the focus of Lewis's Red Sea swim. With one foot on land, and one in the warm, shallow waters of the sea, mangroves stabilise coastal areas, support coral reef health, provide nursery grounds for young fish and other wildlife, timber for people, and food for domestic livestock. Through his swim, Lewis calls for greater protection and restoration of mangroves in MPAs, particularly in Djibouti and Eritrea, where they are critically important.

    Arabian Sea, 23-26 August 2014, Rass Al Hadd, Oman

Spanning from western Arabia to Eastern India, this sea is home to an impressive range of beautiful, yet vulnerable, species and habitats. The diverse and productive coral reefs of this sea have suffered severe coral bleaching ? up to 80 per cent in some areas ? from global warming. This is set to intensify as sea temperatures rise with climate change. It's a bleak outlook for coral reef habitats, and urgent action is needed to reduce climate change at a global level, combined with protection at the local level. Well-managed MPAs can reduce stressors and may improve the ability of corals to withstand and recover from the temperature spikes that cause coral bleaching episodes. Lewis's swim in the Arabian Sea raises the call to action to protect and restore coral reefs, so that this delicate habitat might survive.

    North Sea, 27-29 August 2014, London, UK (South End to Parliament)

The so-called common skate is really rather special, not just because of its enormous size, but because the North Sea is now nearly barren of this 'manta ray of the north'. The North Sea was once teaming with fish and other wildlife, now the skate is critically endangered, and other species will follow unless we take action. Decades of trawling have destroyed mile after mile of delicate seabed habitats, and while the UK has designated a number of MPAs, there are none in the threatened North Sea. Lewis's final swim of the expedition will start in the North Sea and progress up the Thames to London, where he'll call on the UK Government to step up more actively and save this impressive species from extinction. The call will urge for a ban on mobile fishing gears in enough MPAs to restore habitats, and the remnant populations of these and other threatened species, to safe and sustainable levels.

 
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