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Why I’m swimming from Land’s End to Dover

by ZwemZa on July 11th, 2018

Training has involved several hours of cold-water swimming each day (Sky News)

This month, Lewis Pugh will swim 350 miles from Land’s End to Dover in just trunks, a cap and goggles.

The feat will mean five hours in the English Channel every day for 50 days, as part of the Action For Oceans campaign. Here, he tells Sky News why he’s taking on the challenge:

Why are we doing the The Long Swim? It’s very simple.

I’ve been swimming the oceans for 30 years and I can attest that our seas are now polluted and seriously overfished. I want to change that – so that’s why I’m swimming the length of the English Channel, from the Atlantic Ocean to the North Sea.

Lewis Pugh during recent training swims in The English Channel. Pic: Kelvin Trautman
                                Lewis Pugh during recent training swims in the English Channel. Pic: Kelvin Trautm

Earlier this month I visited Lundy, the site of the UK’s first marine conservation zone. I took a boat from the port of Ilfracombe to the island. The skipper was an enterprising young man named Ben Bengey, who at 21 years old has just bought a new fishing boat.

Ben loves fishing, but his boat will pay for itself through eco-tourism – cruising through the Lundy’s spectacular bird and marine life, and taking divers to the marine nature reserve.

Fishing is tough, Ben told me. For him and others like him, the dual income is essential.

Ben is a first-generation fisherman. He chose this line of work because he loves to be out on the water.

I can understand that passion.

Land's End
                                                Video: Swimming the length of the Channel

The name “Lundy” is Norse for “Puffin Island”, so on our arrival I was delighted to see so many beautiful black, white and orange puffins, flapping their little wings like mad to get out of the water.

This is an important breeding ground for sea birds, and we also saw guillemots and gulls, razorbills and shearwaters. A group of grey seals popped their heads out of the water to watch us pass.

In 1973, Lundy became a voluntary marine nature reserve, and in 2010 it was declared the UK’s first marine conservation zone. It is gold standard; one side of the island is a complete no-take zone.

Initially, local fishermen were sceptical. But, as the warden of the Lundy conservation zone told us, they’ve actually seen benefits from the fishing restrictions.

Lewis Pugh
                                                   Lewis Pugh is swimming almost 350 miles

They may have lost some fishing grounds, but there are much more fish available where they can fish, since fish and lobster spill over from the protected zones into areas where fisherman are allowed to put down their nets and pots.

The benefits for fishermen have been two-fold: not only nice big lobsters, but new opportunities in ecotourism, diving excursions, photographic safaris and the like.

The simple truth is that marine-protected areas really work. And we need a lot more of them.

I was 21 years old when I did my Channel crossing in 1993. Richard Armstrong was the pilot who took me across. Like all the pilots that have helped me on 30 years of swimming, he was a fisherman. One of my abiding memories from that day was getting on the boat and hearing him grumbling about the lack of fish.

Pugh says swimming the Channel will be the 'most difficult swim I've ever undertaken'
                           Pugh says swimming the Channel will be the ‘most difficult swim I’ve ever undertaken’

I couldn’t help thinking, as I watched Ben at the helm of his new boat, that it’s not just about protecting the fishing industry but about protecting the people who fish and the ecosystem that sustains them.

Sky News

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