We have never felt so humble to present an Ocean Hero before, and it's because we know how much the ocean means to her and her life journey.
It is her profound love for our oceans, her fantastic ocean photography and her desire to share her story that makes us so proud to be able to tell part of that story, in her own words, in this latest Message In A Bottle interview.
WHAT'S YOUR NAME & WHERE DO YOU LIVE?
My name is Katie Maggs and I live in the small coastal town of Penzance in Cornwall. Penzance was once voted by the New York Times as one of the top 52 places to visit in the world! It has a long promenade which runs westward to the well-known fishing port of Newlyn and at the eastern end lies the iconic art deco lido known as Jubilee pool.
WHAT DO YOU DO?
I am a departmental deputy of a further education College in Cornwall and I lecture in Health Sciences. I am also a daily dawn all year round outdoor swimmer, marine life photographer, writer and proud Mum to my 17-year-old son.
WHY DO YOU LOVE OUR OCEANS?
My dad always loved the sea – he moved from Staines in London to Cornwall when he was just 16 and it was the first time, he had ever seen the sea. From a young age he always took my twin sister and me to small local fishing coves and hidden secret beaches. We would spend the late part of the afternoon straight after primary school snorkelling and learning to hold our breath for long periods of time underwater. We’d swim through deep caves in crystal-clear waters whilst our dad would point out scuttling spider crabs, passing seals, iridescent jellyfish and masses of bright green sea lace and sugar kelp.
HOW DOES OPEN WATER SWIMMING AND OCEAN PHOTOGRAPHY FIT INTO YOUR LIFE AND HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO BE IN THE WATER?
I eventually came away from the sea as I got older, from that place that once provided me with so much wonder, joy and strong sense of belonging and calm.
It wasn’t until I had built an adult life many years later that I began to struggle under the weight of it all that I rediscovered the sea once more. At the age of 34 I suffered a break down through burnout. My breakdown stripped away all that made up ‘me’. Through overload, anxiety and fatigue my confidence in life had been lost. My journey with ill health spanned over a year but it was my rediscovery of daily sea swimming, a wonderful outdoor swimming community and underwater photography that magically brought all that I once was back to me. My journey was made into a BAFTA nominated short film, directed by Jonathan J Scott - available on YOUTUBE titled Tonic of the Sea and I later wrote my first book titled the same (currently looking for a publishing company).
I swim every day all year round at dawn and I always take my cameras with me. I have to be at work early so I swim each day at 6am to ensure I am carving out time each day solely just for me. My dawn swims enable me to spend quiet time immersed in nature, gain some physical exercise, connect with and observe local wildlife and express myself and my passions creatively using my marine photography.
WHAT FIRST BROUGHT YOUR ATTENTION TO PLASTIC POLLUTION, AND WHEN?
There was never a lot of plastic pollution on the beaches when I was young, my dad always says he never really saw any back then in the early eighties either. Even just 30 years ago things were so very different. There was less human activity in all the small local coves that we would visit, less pollution and so much more wildlife to see. At times back then the ocean floor would be crawling with lobster and spider crabs. In these places when I snorkel at them now this is not the case anymore. Microplastics are also a common site on our beautiful white sandy coastlines, thick trails of brightly coloured plastic create a rainbow effect along the sand. Ghost nets also wash up regularly in these coves too – floating in the oceans currents and entangling our wonderful wildlife.
After recently qualifying as a Marine Mammal Medic I have personally witnessed the devastating effect on our grey seal population when it comes to ghost net entanglement.
HOW HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR LIFE SINCE THEN?
Since becoming wise enough to reflect on my own personal experiences with the sea and after witnessing the decline of our local beauty spots first hand I now try to work closely with organisations that aim to protect and preserve our UK Coastlines, ones that work towards a more positive, respectful and curious mindset when it comes to how we care for, observe and look after our oceans and its wildlife.
I currently work with ‘We Swim Wild’ as a regional representative water logger – taking scientific samples of local waterways to test for levels of microplastics and informing annual UK Plastic Water Reports. Alongside being a qualified Marine Mammal Medic with the British Divers Marine Life Rescue I am also a member of the Mounts Bay Marine Group helping to preserve and highlight the natural wonders and wildlife of our local coastline and bay. I also represent Swim Secure and Selkie – brands that encourage outdoor swimming but source sustainable products and promote ocean respect, preservation and protection.
WHAT CHANGES IN SOCIETY DO YOU THINK WILL HAVE THE BIGGEST IMPACT TO REDUCE PLASTIC POLLUTION?
Working in education I see first-hand the effect of poverty on families and it can be hard for people to make cheap sustainable choices when it comes to products and their packaging. I think that it is an issue that really needs to be challenged from the source – large companies need to take responsibility for their plastic use and what they use for their packaging in large quantities. It needs to begin with the use of alternative packaging or no packaging at all – especially when it comes to fruit and vegetables where it really isn’t necessary. Most people I speak to don’t even want the packaging and end up leaving it at the till in the supermarket.
Our local Plastic Free Community project @PlasticFreePenzance and @SurfersagainstSewage run a great campaign of #returntooffender tagging companies on beach cleans such as Coca Cola, Pepsi, Cadbury UK, Walkers and many more to highlight the packaging issue at source. It is this that needs to change to really see significant transformations in our oceans.
IN WHAT WAY ARE YOU BRINGING POSITIVE CHANGE TO YOUR COMMUNITY?
I work full time in further education, I live with 3 teenage sons and I have a busy personal life whilst also caring for my Dad, and so to create positive change I just try to do what I can with the time that I have left over! I aim to be a part of as many local positive projects as I can in any free time that I can get!
If I can volunteer with local community projects, share inspiring thought provoking images of the wonder and beauty of our marine life here in Cornwall, get my book @TonicoftheSea’ published and hopefully make people curious again about the magic and necessity of the health of our oceans then I hope it will make people want to make changes to protect, appreciate and love it all as much as I do too! 😊
NAME ONE SMALL BUT POWERFUL CHANGE PEOPLE CAN MAKE TO BETTER TAKE CARE OF OUR OCEANS
Spend more time on it, in it or beside it! What you come to love you will want to protect 😊
MORE ABOUT KATIE
Full name - Katie Maggs (Maggsy by my swimming friends!)
From - Penzance in Cornwall
Main occupation - Deputy and Health Sciences Lecturer
Favorite place in the world is - Anywhere with my son 😊
My favorite book right now is - Get your sh*t together by Sarah Knight!
I cannot live without - My Go Pro
My ocean spirit animal is - A Jellyfish every time - I love them!
Three words that would describe me are - Energetic, Grateful, Life Lover
My favorite thing about our oceans is - Its so vast, its ever changing, it has moods, no day is the same, it is mostly undiscovered –there must be so much more in there that we don’t know about!!!!! HOW EXCITING!
First activity in the morning is - Putting on a neoprene swimsuit whilst half asleep!
One of my dreams in life is - To be a full-time conservationist and photographer to change behaviours and attitudes towards marine life.
My go-to sustainable product is - Reusable Sandwich wrap!
I am passionate about - Helping other people, helping animals and always being kind and considerate to both! 😊
Please follow Katie on social media and take in her journey and absolutely spectacular images of our oceans. You can find here here @tonicofthesea and visit her website HERE. Also watch BAFTA nominated movie Tonic of The Sea HERE