26 Jun 2018 Press release Oceans & seas

Lewis Pugh announces record-breaking swim for ocean protection


London, 26 June 2018– Endurance swimmer and UN Environment Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh today announced his plans to swim the entire length of the English Channel – his longest distance ever – to draw attention to the urgent need for ocean protection.

He will be the first person to ever attempt to swim the whole length of the English Channel wearing just swimming trunks, cap and goggles – braving exhaustion, cold and the busy ocean traffic to deliver a message for the environment. Averaging five hours and 10-20km every day, the 560km swim along the English coastline will take him from July 12 until late August to complete.

"I've been swimming in the world's oceans for 30 years,” Lewis Pugh said. “This is not a long time in ecological terms, and yet I've seen the oceans change before my eyes.”

The expedition is the latest in a series of swims in some of the most challenging environments on earth, including the Arctic and the North Pole. As UN Environment Patron for the Oceans, Pugh has used these challenging expeditions to draw attention to the fragility of the world’s marine ecosystems.

Armed with only a Speedo and goggles, he was the first swimmer to take to water across the North Pole in 2007, to highlight the melting of the Arctic sea ice.

“UN Environment is immensely grateful for every kilometer that Lewis Pugh swims. By taking bold action and being willing to take risks, he draws attention to one of the world most urgent issues: the state of our marine ecosystems,” Head of UN Environment Erik Solheim said. “It takes advocates like Lewis Pugh to inspire people into action for our oceans, in ways that nobody else can.”

In his position as UN Environment Patron of the Oceans, Pugh has supported the Clean Seas campaign on marine litter through his swims and advocacy. Global marine waters are under immense pressure from the large amounts of plastic pollution ending up in the oceans –8 million tonnes every year.

At the same time, other types of pollution, along with overfishing, tourism, recreation and coastal development are disturbing the fragile marine ecosystems around the world.

By embarking on the ‘The Long Swim’, Pugh is driving his message on ocean protection home, calling on the British government to strengthen and expand the Marine Protected Areas around the UK and Overseas Territories. Out of the UK’s 750,000 square kilometres of coastal waters, only 7 are fully protected.

"It has been shown that fully protected Marine Protected Areas give distressed and degraded seas their best chance of recovery," Pugh said. "But the need for action is urgent, and the time to act is now. In a few years’ time, it will be too late to fix this crisis.”

‘The Long Swim’ will mark the start of a worldwide campaign entitled Action for Oceans, an initiative that is calling on governments to fully protect at least 30% of the world’s oceans by 2030. Surfers Against Sewage, one of the UK's leading marine conservation charities will be hosting regular beach clean-ups along the swim route.

In preparation for his long and difficult challenge, Pugh has been training in the cold and rough waters of the coast of South Africa and the Falkland Island.  


About UN Environment

UN Environment is the leading global voice on the global environment. It provides leadership and encourages partnership in caring for the environment by inspiring, informing, and enabling nations and peoples to improve their quality of life without compromising that of future generations. UN Environment works with governments, the private sector, the civil society and with other UN entities and international organizations across the world. 

About Clean Seas

UN Environment launched #CleanSeas in February 2017, with the aim of engaging governments, the general public, civil society and the private sector in the fight against marine plastic litter.
By connecting individuals, civil society groups, industry and governments, UN Environment aims to transform habits, practices, standards and policies around the globe to dramatically reduce marine litter and the harm it causes.

For more information, please contact:

Keith Weller, Head of News and Media, [email protected]