Press Release: Urgent call for better protection of the Southern Ocean on 200 year anniversary of Antarctic exploration

Press Release: Urgent call for better protection of the Southern Ocean on 200 year anniversary of Antarctic exploration

MOSCOW: To mark the 200th anniversary of the sighting of Antarctica by Russian explorer Admiral von Bellingshausen, Lewis Pugh, UN Patron of the Oceans, Antartica2020 Champion, and endurance swimmer, just completed a swim in a sub-glacial river underneath the East Antarctica ice sheet and has now travelled to Moscow to bring attention to the need for Southern Ocean protection.

Mr. Pugh, who has pushed the limits to swim in every ocean in the world, described his recent swim on the 23rd January as one of the hardest swims of his life, due to the freezing waters, strong winds and severe wind chill factor.

[Lewis Pugh quote] “East Antarctica is vast and beautiful, but everywhere we looked there was meltwater. Elsewhere around the world coral reefs are dying and forest fires are raging. Solving this climate emergency is THE defining issue of our generation. While dangerous, this swim was absolutely necessary to show that 2020 must be the year of action,” said Pugh

Mr. Pugh was accompanied on his Antarctic expedition by fellow Antarctica2020 Champions Viacheslav Fetisov, Russian hockey great and UN Patron for Polar Regions, and José María Figueres, former President of Costa Rica. Both Mr. Pugh and Mr. Fetisov are now in Moscow, meeting with Russian officials and the French Ambassador to Russia, to discuss the need to elevate the issue of Antarctic marine conservation in international fora. France is a co-proponent of a large-scale marine protected area proposal in the East Antarctic and

President Macron has been a strong advocate for its protection. Russia holds the key to its designation this year as part of the global effort to protect one of the most remote areas on Earth.

[Slava Fetisov quote] “As UN Patron of the Polar Regions it is terrifying to watch our poles disappearing before our eyes. The melting Antarctica we just visited is very different to the one that von Bellingshausen and Lazarev first sighted exactly two hundred years ago today. Russia leading the protection of this last great wilderness, would be the best possible way to honour this Antarctic Russian legacy.”

Antarctica is on the front line of the climate and biodiversity loss crises- it is one of the most rapidly warming places on earth, threatening its unique and vulnerable wildlife. Last year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change called for the creation of marine protected areas to build ocean resilience to climate change. Protecting the Southern Ocean would help iconic species such as penguins and whales, as well as fish populations, adapt to this changing climate.

[José María Figueres quote] “Our trip to Antarctica just reconfirmed there’s no more time to lose. Just like 60 years ago when governments came together to designate Antarctica as a place for peace, science and cooperation, we need to come together to set its marine waters on the road to recovery. Russian leadership supporting further Southern Ocean protection in 2020 will be critical.”

An international meeting of the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources will meet in October to agree on designating marine protection in the East Antarctic, as well as in the Weddell Sea and Antarctic Peninsula.

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Antarctica2020 is a group of influencers from the world of sport, politics, business, media and science, that are building support for the protection of more than 7 million km2 of the Southern Ocean by 2020, through the establishment of a network of large-scale marine protected areas in the region. The group was formed in 2018.

Antarctica2020 is calling for high-level leadership, multilateral cooperation and sustained diplomatic efforts to ensure action is taken to protect the Southern Ocean—the world’s greatest remaining ocean wilderness. This protection will safeguard Antarctica’s precious marine life, build global resilience to the effects of climate change and create an environmental legacy that will benefit humanity for generations.

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Sylvia Earle- National Geographic Explorer in Residence;  Founder, Mission Blue

Slava Fetisov- Member of the State Duma of Russia, UN Patron for the Polar Regions, Former professional ice hockey player

José María Figueres-  Former President of Costa Rica  Founder, Ocean Unite and Antarctica2020

Amaro Gomez- Journalist

Robert Hill- Former Australian Minister of Environment (1996-2001), Former Australian Minister of Defence (2001-2006)

Geneviève Pons- Former Director of WWF EU, Director Jacques Delors Institute, Brussels

Lewis Pugh- endurance swimmer and UN Patron of the Oceans

Pascal Lamy-  Former Director-General of the World Trade Organization (2005-2013), President of Paris Peace Forum