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Lewis Pugh ‘has shown inspirational leadership and grit’



Environment Secretary Michael Gove will be waiting to congratulate Lewis Pugh in Dover as he completes his 330-mile Long Swim in under 50 days.

Here, he writes about the endurance swimmer’s inspirational leadership and how Britain will get its seas back once it leaves the European Union.

Shortly after 6am on 12 July, the heroic oceans campaigner Lewis Pugh set out to swim the length of the English Channel – more than 300 miles – in under 50 days.

This afternoon, Day 49, I will be on a Dover beach with many other well-wishers and supporters to congratulate him on a Herculean task successfully completed.

In battling through storms, jellyfish and a painful shoulder injury, Lewis has shown grit, courage and inspirational leadership.

He has also kept marine protection and our suffering seas at the top of the agenda – supported by Sky’s brilliant Ocean Rescue campaign.

Lewis Pugh was jubilant as he reached the white cliffs of Dover
Lewis Pugh was jubilant as he reached the white cliffs of Dover

Our seas play a vital role in regulating the climate, generating oxygen and feeding the world’s growing population.

I am with Lewis, fellow campaigners and other governments in recognising the need to do much more to value, protect and enhance our natural world.

In oceans as on land, we must work together to ensure that the planet – our shared home – continues to be a source of awe and wonder for future generations, and supports and sustains our children and grandchildren.

I am glad that our government is leading the way, particularly in tackling the scourge of plastics in our seas.

But there is, I know, more to do. We have taken action to ensure that 36% of England’s waters are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), zones designed to safeguard rare, threatened and nationally important habitats and species.


Lewis Pugh: UK must protect marine habitats

Across the UK, over 200,000 square kilometres of coastline are safeguarded – and recent proposals for 41 new Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) represent the most significant expansion of our Blue Belt yet.

New activities deemed damaging will be forbidden, helping species to recover and thrive.

But we know that we must go further. We have to work with other countries to develop further MPAs, including in the vulnerable Antarctic and Southern Ocean regions.

And we need to ensure that our MCZs are operating effectively – providing the right level of protection which allows our seas to be truly healthy and resilient – home to growing numbers of fish and other marine wildlife.

Making sure our seas are healthy is a challenge this government is determined to meet through our 25 year environment plan.

Lewis Pugh said the 50 days swimming has been exhausting
Lewis Pugh said the 50 days swimming has been exhausting

Among other measures, it supports our commitment to eliminate all avoidable plastic waste, too much of which ends up in oceans.

So far we have banned microbeads in personal care rinse-off products, introduced the 5p carrier bag levy and are planning a deposit return scheme for drinks bottles.

We are working to make it simpler and easier for people and businesses to recycle.

And when we leave the European Union, we take back control of our seas.

As an independent coastal state we can create a profitable fishing industry that is also sustainable, and minimise its impact on non-commercial species.

Our annual reckoning of the health of fish stocks means we can intervene if they are struggling.

Lewis’s inspirational work has shone a powerful light on how important it is to protect the seas around us – and how much more we have to do.

Today I want to thank him again for inspiring people the world over to do more to protect the marine environment.

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