Endurance swimmer-turned-campaigner Lewis Pugh is hailing the decision of the UK government to table a UN motion calling for 30 percent of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030.
Pugh has been lobbying governments worldwide to adopt the ambitious strategy, including via his ‘The Long Swim’ campaign, crafted with the support of sport-for-social change consultancy thinkBeyond.
Now the UK has declared it will urge other nations at the UN General Assembly, taking place in New York this week, to treble the current 10% global target for marine protection.
Pugh called environment secretary Michael Gove’s declaration a “landmark decision.” He said: “It took my breath away. If this is supported by other nations and followed through, it will be the most important moment for ocean conservation in history.”
Pugh’s ‘The Long Swim’ initiative, which saw the swimmer complete the full length of the English Channel – 530km from Land’s End to Dover – specifically sought to push for the more ambitious, 30% marine protection target by 2030. Gove was present at the finish line and held private talks with the athlete and his team.
The campaign was developed with London-based thinkbeyond, which worked with the Lewis Pugh Foundation to strategically shape the campaign message, secure sponsorship and manage partnerships for the event.
Reflecting on the feat less than a month after arriving in Dover, UN Patron of the Oceans Pugh added: “This news is very exciting. The pain of my 49-day swim has quickly disappeared.”
The UK will become the first major economy to officially recognise the importance of ocean protection at the larger scale, when environment minister Therese Coffey addresses colleagues at the UN headquarters this week.
Speaking ahead of the annual Assembly, Pugh emphasised: “On paper, the UK has strong credentials in marine conservation.
“While we welcome this landmark decision, we need to focus not only on the number but the nature of the protection. Fully protected MPAs are what it takes for these oceans to fully recover, without which they are like frames with no pictures.”
ThinkBeyond managing director Alexandra Chalat commented: “It was inspiring for all our team to work with Lewis on The Long Swim. We’re proud to be supporting his efforts to push for worldwide change.
“The UK’s decision is further evidence of the power of sport to cut through and place issues of social and sustainable development at the top of the global agenda.”
ThinkBeyond’s role on The Long Swim included securing Lead Partner FXTM, Official Partner Speedo and Lead Broadcast Partner Sky, which covered the Swim every day across its news channels as part of the media giant's commitment to healthy oceans.
The agency also delivered event management for the Lewis Pugh Foundation along the Swim’s route as part of the partner delivery to FXTM.
ThinkBeyond describes itself as a global expert in providing consultancy, strategy and delivery to brands, sports teams, leagues, federations, talent and governments who want to do good business and create positive social change.
The company's clients include Legal & General, ESPN and Special Olympics. It also works with other athletes including Michael Johnson and Helen and Kate Richardson-Walsh on sport-for-social-change projects.