two images together, the left shows a person holding swimming fins, the right shows people in a body of water.

From Fishing Trip Antics to Eco-Innovation: the inspiring journey of the Salty Monkey

Dennis Fay is a firefighter with a unique passion for adventure and preserving his Torres Strait Islander heritage. It all started on a fishing trip when Dennis and his friends decided to add some fun by wearing monkey masks. Their antics caught fire on social media, birthing "Salty Monkeys". 

What began as a laugh soon turned into a mission. They found creative ways to engage communities, offering youth mentoring, free-diving workshops, and safety talks. As their online presence grew, so did the demand for their clothing. 

Salty Monkeys, an Indigenous-owned business from Far North Queensland, provides skills and experience in designing and marketing high quality apparel designed for the ocean enthusiast incorporating sun smart attributes and featuring unique Indigenous designs. 

“We collaborated with local Indigenous artists through the Torres Strait, putting their art onto shirts, towels and hats, promoting them using our platform, and sharing their story and connection to the artwork,” Dennis said.  

“As we started to grow, we wanted to look at innovative ways to connect with customers, and critically we wanted to preserve and look after things that provide for us.” 

Plastic and marine debris is a major problem for the Torres Strait and Cape York communities. While it is difficult to confirm the total amount collected, the Australian Marine Debris Initiative (AMDI) indicates that they have typically recorded around 65kgs per kilometre collected when averaged across the region. 

With support from Advance Queensland's Deadly Deals program, Dennis is working on echo fins—flippers made from recycled plastics—to address environmental concerns.  

The circular economy project will collect plastic debris from the Torres Strait Islands for repurposing into unique mould injected dive fins decorated with Indigenous artwork. The funding will also support a pilot project to scale-up production of the prototype Dive Fin Blade including development of injection mould tooling to manufacture a new Dive Fin Blade and interchangeable pockets, artist’s design and upskilling of staff and scale-up of cost-effective manufacturing. 

“We wouldn’t have been able to get where we are without the support from Advance Queensland. Not only the operational side of things, the prototypes and business case. But giving us opportunities to scale and grow as a business and individuals.” 

For Dennis, this journey never felt like work; it was an extension of his life—ocean conservation and honouring his Indigenous roots.  

Through technology, Salty Monkeys spread messages of water safety, ocean preservation, and identity strength to a global audience. What started as a joke evolved into a powerful means to connect with youth, care for their land, and proudly celebrate Torres Strait Islander culture. 

Read more Deadly Innovation stories.

Last updated 15 Jan, 2024
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