WORDS Caitlin Jones
PICTURES Mark Fitz
Crystal Lacey, better known as ‘Little Fish,’ grew up in country Queensland, more than 170 kilometres from the coast. Despite this, she’s dedicated her life to preserving the Great Barrier Reef. Here, she explains to Journey Beyond how she became known as Little Fish and how we can enjoy and care for the reef.
Little Fish’s affinity for all things marine started when she was a pintsized pre-schooler with the task of coming up with a story. Her book was about diving with great white sharks and little did she know that her imaginative story would later become reality.
The country kid from Meringandan went on a cruise ship as a teenager and it was then that she discovered the underwater world.
“I went scuba diving and from then, I was sold. Just before I left school, I moved up to the Whitsundays and got a job as a diver”.
Since then, she’s worked with whale sharks in Western Australia, been a dive instructor in Fiji and done tagging and research on great whites with famed shark conservationist Rodney Fox in South Australia. It was while working in WA that she earnt the name ‘Little Fish’ for being small and able to ‘swim like a fish’ – in fact, she was the only one who could keep up with the whale sharks.
For the past 10 years, Little Fish has been based out of Airlie Beach working for tourism operator, Cruise Whitsundays. A jack of all trades, she’s a dive instructor, underwater photographer, reef interpreter, marine educator and medical emergency trainer.
Passionate about protecting the reef, Little Fish has spent a lot of time removing the poisonous Crown of Thorns star fish, a pest that eats three times its body size in coral a day. She also actively contributes to the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef program, which collects information about the reef’s health and marine animals.
Little Fish sees her work less as a job and more as a way of life and loves sharing her passion for the reef with others.
“This is nature and you better immerse yourself in it because it’s unbelievable”.
Eager to share her enthusiasm with other Cruise Whitsundays staff, Little Fish works closely with the team.
“I want to show the staff that what we do matters and that they can make a difference,” she said.
And while thousands of guests visit the reef every year, there’s a responsibility to look after it for generations to come.
“We’re not going to have it forever if we don’t look after it and the way we look after it is by teaching and showing people how magical it is,” Little Fish said.
“I want a day out on the reef to change people’s view. I want them to go home realising how lucky they are to experience such a special place and want to save it”.
5 ways you can enjoy the reef responsibly
1. WEAR WETSUITS
This will minimise the use of sunscreen, meaning less chemicals enter the water.
2. LOOK BUT DON’T TOUCH
Take lots of photos and leave only bubbles behind.
3. HUMAN FOOD IS FOR HUMANS
Feeding it to marine life can make them very sick.
4. AVOID STANDING
Make an effort not to step on the reef – coral is very fragile! If you need to rest, float on your back.
Get the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority’s Eye on the Reef Sightings app and upload any interesting animal sightings you have.