National Geographic Society Pristine Seas Joins Lewis Pugh, Other Partners on Antarctica 2020: Project Likely to be the Most Ambitious Ocean Protection Plan in History

Today, the National Geographic Society Pristine Seas project announced that it is joining global ocean advocate and UN Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh and other key partners to create a network of protected areas in the Antarctic Peninsula.

The effort, called Antarctica 2020, will work to protect the vulnerable seas in East Antarctica, the Weddell Sea and the waters around the Antarctica Peninsula. Collectively these areas will span nearly 7 million square kilometers, roughly the size of the continent of Australia.

Building on momentum from the recent negotiation of the Ross Sea Marine Protected Area (MPA), Antarctica 2020 is a build-up to 2020, when the world will celebrate the 200-year anniversary of the discovery of Antarctica by Russian explorer Admiral Bellingshausen.

Since last week, Lewis Pugh has been in Antarctica taking part in a long-distance swim in the icy Bellingshausen Sea to launch the three-year campaign. He will undertake additional cold-water swims leading up to 2020 to focus public attention and keep up the momentum of his campaign. “These swims help us show the world how precious these last Antarctic wilderness areas are,” Pugh says.

“The High Seas represent approximately 45 percent of the entire world, yet they are largely unprotected. The formation of the Ross Sea MPA couldn’t have come at a more crucial time and has set an important precedent,” says United Nations Environment Head Erik Solheim. “The next crucial step in Antarctic Ocean protection is to build on this achievement and be even more ambitious.”

As part of the project, the National Geographic Society will conduct an expedition in February 2017 to document the underwater world of the Antarctica Peninsula.

Antarctica 2020 is backed by the United Nations Environment and will work to build support among prominent world leaders, scientists, environmentalists, policymakers and peacemakers. Public engagement is key, because the 24 nations plus the European Union that oversee the waters around Antarctica must agree on measures to protect the area.

About the National Geographic Society

The National Geographic Society is a leading nonprofit that invests in bold people and transformative ideas in the fields of exploration, scientific research, storytelling and education. We support educators to ensure that the next generation is armed with geographic knowledge and global understanding. We aspire to create a community of change, advancing key insights about our planet and probing some of the most pressing scientific questions of our time. Our goal is measurable impact: furthering exploration and educating people around the world to inspire solutions for the greater good. The National Geographic Society’s Pristine Seas project seeks to help protect the last wild places in the ocean. The project’s partners include Davidoff Cool Water, among others. For more information, visit


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