Sponge farming

Photo and caption’s credit: Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) Review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal (Founder of the website)

The inserted photo shows the Sponge farming trials in Marakei (Pacific Islands). The following is a summarized review on sponge farming.

The promotion of sponge aquaculture has been based on social and environmental factors. The easiness of sponge farming encouraged the adoption of the small-scale farming by rural communities. Providing a sustainable alternative to fishing is believed to have an ecological role through reducing the pressure on wild sponge resources that are at risk of being overexploited due to growing demand.

Sponge farms are easy to establish with minimum infrastructure and so with little financial resources and requires little specialist knowledge. Added to that, no feed is needed and usually no chemicals are applied. On the other hand, the good price of produced shrimp makes it a source of income.

The main efforts spent in running a sponge farm include the farm structure maintenance, hanging young sponges from the breeding stock, cleaning of sponges from vegetation and possible pests, trimming of sponges to give them a round shape, and harvesting and preparing the products for sale.

The main sponge culture technique includes rope method, mesh bag method and a combination of methods. The culture of sponge is done as a single crop (monoculture) or in integration with other aquaculture systems.

The suitable site for the sponge farming should be highly considered bearing in mind that sponges rely greatly on passive water for providing food, such as bacteria and microalgae. Adequate water flow increases growth and quality of sponges. However, higher than normal water flow rates could potentially damage farmed sponges. Thus, an ideal location for a sea sponge farm would be in sheltered area whereas ample water flow with sufficient food should be secured to optimize sponge growth. It may worth mentioning that the commercial sponge farming was met with severe resistance from sponge fisherman, who believed that their continued income was under threat.

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