Conversing Change And Conversion With Lewis Pugh

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Lewis Pugh is globally acknowledged as a gifted public speaker. His oratorical skills are not only among the best among swimmers, but among the best among all athletes and ocean advocates.

But his persuasive one-on-one charms and his abilities to eloquently present a convincing case to world leaders and groups of all sorts were clearly called upon over the last two years when he shuttled back and forth between political rulers, bureaucrats and business leaders. He was able to move opinions and shape policy. As a result, his personal efforts led to the establishment of the largest marine protected area in the world.

As he spearheaded a movement to protect the Ross Sea in the Southern Ocean, he used his Five Swims In Antarctica for 1 Reason as the catalyst. Then, he utilized his dryland talents to continue the momentum and his own special style of Speedo diplomacy.

Among the individuals who took the time to listen to Pugh’s pleas and reasoning to establish the Ross Sea as a MPA was Russian President Vladimir Putin and his top cabinet members as well as the United States Secretary of State John Kerry and his Under Secretary Catherine Novelli. But there were many more individuals like Russians Slava Fetisov, Nick Bobrov and Sergey Rybakov who also “made a world of difference” said Pugh.

The key issue was to convince the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) to accept the premise of a Ross Sea MPA. Russia’s input and support was key in accepting this proposal that had been vetoed by Russia on five previous occasions.

But Pugh remained undaunted and sought the approval of the 25 members of the CCAMLR that includes the European Union, Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Korea, Namibia, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Ukraine, United Kingdom, USA, and Uruguay. As he substituted his Speedos for suits, Pugh continued to repeatedly shuttle capitols around the world, constantly pushing for positive vote.

Two years of work finally resulted in exactly what Pugh had envisioned. “I spent those years shuttling back and forth to Russia, speaking with their leadership to encourage them to join the other CCAMLR nations in protecting the Ross Sea. And now they have. This is a very big moment in the history of conservation.

Here’s why: First, at 1.57 million square kilometres, the Ross Sea MPA is the world’s biggest protected area in history. To put it in perspective, it’s bigger than the UK, France, Germany and Italy combined.

Second, as the first large-scale marine protected area in the high seas, the creation of the Ross Sea MPA sets an important precedent. The high seas represent 45% of our planet, and yet they are largely unprotected.

Third, the Ross Sea is home to many creatures found nowhere else, including 50% of the world’s ecotype-C killer whales (also known as the Ross Sea orca), 40% of the world’s Adélie penguins, and 25% of the world’s emperor penguins. It urgently needed protection from the kind of rampant overfishing that has decimated marine species in other oceans.

And forth, what makes this achievement even more remarkable is that Russia, the US, the EU and the 22 other CCAMLR nations shook hands in a time of strained political relations

Pugh is among the nominees for the 2016 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year:

1. Roger Finch (South Africa)
2. Seti Afoa (Samoa)
3. Tomi Stefanovski (Macedonia)
4. Edoardo Stochino (Italy)
5. Ferry Weertman (Netherlands)
6. Nejib Belhedi (Tunisia)
7. Ger Kennedy (Ireland)
8. Alex Kostich (USA)
9. Masayuki Moriya (Japan)
10. Colin Hill (Great Britain)
11. Ingemar Patiño Macarine (Philippines)
12. Lewis Pugh (Great Britain)
13. Christof Wandratsch (Germany)

To vote for the WOWSA Awards, visit here. Online voting continues until December 31st 2016.

Copyright © 2016 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones