Mike Walker, Antarctic Ocean Alliance, Project Director
Earlier in September, UNEP Patron of the Oceans, Lewis Pugh, met with Sergei Ivanov, President’s Putin special representative on the environment and ecology. It was a warm and constructive meeting during which they discussed the exciting plans and opportunities for Russia’s Year of Ecology, 2017. Sergei Ivanov ended the meeting by assuring Lewis that he will raise supporting the proposed marine protected area in the Ross Sea with his colleagues.
For Lewis the word “impossible” is an invitation to a challenge. Last year he proved that by swimming in the Bellingshausen Sea. It was the last of seven pioneering swims he undertook to raise awareness of the importance of the waters around Antarctica. But Russians know this: five of the 13 seas around the continent are named after Russian explorers, including Bellingshausen – the Russian explorer who discovered Antarctica.
President Putin has declared 2017 will be the Year of Ecology and just three weeks ago, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced the expansion of Russia’s Arctic National Park in Franz Josef Land to 8.8 million hectares. Momentum is building and the signs are pointing in the right direction; 2016 could be the year that Russia votes to protect the Southern Ocean.