The project has been a collaborative effort between:
YICC is currently seeking funding to establish a pilot farm which, if successful, could lead to the development of other farms in the area. YICC Chairman Don Mosby says the community would benefit from a commercial sponge farm.
The group investigated many aspects – from environmental impacts to market demands. For example, the shape of the mature sponges was very important in determining which farming method to be used.
AIMS scientists left sponges to grow in the sea for nine months before they reached marketable size and are pleased with the results which support the feasibility of growing sponges in the Torres Strait.
Local residents participated in the dive and field work components of the project which has received widespread community support. Don Mosby says,
Alan Duckworth believes that sponge aquaculture will be the most environmentally sustainable way of meeting market demands into the future. He says,
Aquaculture is a sustainable alternative to ‘wild harvesting’ which has devastated sponge populations in other regions and the AIMS scientists believe the environmental impacts of a commercial sponge farm at Masig Island would be minimal.
Natural sponges are sought after by cosmetic and industrial cleaning companies due to their highly absorbent skeletons. At present, international demand for bath sponges far outweighs the supply reserves. The world sponge industry, which is primarily supplied by the Mediterranean and the Caribbean is worth over $40M.
Dr Alan Duckworth (AIMS)
Telephone: 07 4753 4171