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The winners of the Ocean Awards 2019

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The Visionary Award: Lewis Pugh

The Long Swim

This award recognises the individual or group that has taken the lead on globally- significant actions for the benefit of ocean health. The winner of this award will have shown consistent leadership and vision on ocean issues, going above and beyond others in their commitment to protecting marine life. This can include important policy initiatives and the people behind them.

In August 2018, the British environmental campaigner and former maritime lawyer Lewis Pugh, UN Patron of the Oceans since 2013, completed a 49-day, 527-kilometre swim along the English Channel from Land’s End to Dover. His mission was to mark the start of a global campaign to win protection for at least 30 per cent of the world’s oceans by 2030, as well as to raise awareness of plastic pollution. But it was also to flag up the fact that of the 750,000 square kilometres of seas around the UK, only seven square kilometres are fully protected from exploitation. Pugh uses the publicity to draw attention to the declining health of the world’s oceans and to encourage nations to create marine protected areas.

The Channel swim presented exceptional challenges: jellyfish, storms, marine traffic (it is the busiest shipping lane in the world), proximity to nuclear power stations and pollution. But he insists it was worth it. The media coverage it commanded was extensive. And the government took notice: Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, was on hand as Pugh emerged from the waves after the last leg, and in September he called for 30 per cent of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030, a target MP Thérèse Coffey called for at the United Nations General Assembly in New York later that month.

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