Sponge Act passed (1914)

The United States passed into law the “New Sponge-Mining Act” on August 15, 1914.  This act replaced and repealed a prior act of the same type, passed on June 20, 1906.  The 1906 law was the first expression of the authority of the United States government to regulate commercial fishing.

Historic sponge-fishing in FLorida

The Sponge Act, as it is now known, has been in continuous enforcement since 1914.  It regulates the size of harvested sponges to five inches or bigger, measured at the broadest part of the sponge.  Size limits like these are generally used to assure that an organism has an opportunity to reproduce at least once before being harvested.  In the case of sponges, which are colonies of simple cells, reproduction is not the problem.  Instead, the size limit was created simply to allow small sponges to grow sufficiently large that enough would be around to continue a sustainable fishery.

The sponge industry continues today in Florida and throughout the Caribbean (photo by State Library and Archives of Florida)

Sponges are commercially harvested in the United States only in the state waters of Florida and the adjacent federal waters.  Florida has adopted the same 5-inch size limit on the harvest of sponges.

Although the earth’s oceans contain more than 9000 species of sponges, only a few species are commercially harvested.  The traditional harvest location was in the Mediterranean waters around Greece, but the discovery of abundant sponge populations in Florida in the mid-1800s led to a large industry developing in Florida, especially around Tarpon Springs on the Caribbean coast.

References:

Legal Information Institute.  16 U.S. Code section 781 – Taking or catching, in waters of Gulf or Straits of Florida, commercial sponges of less than prescribed size, and landing or possession of same.  Available at:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/16/781.  Accessed August 14, 2017.

Northeast Fisheries Science Center.  Historical Highlights.  Available at:  https://www.nefsc.noaa.gov/history/timeline/1900.html.  Accessed August 14, 2017.

Stevely, John, and Don Swear.  2016.  Florida’s Marine Sponges.  University of Florida, Sea Grant Institute, SGEF 169.  Available at:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/SG/SG09500.pdf.  Accessed August 14, 2017.

This Month in Conservation

March 1
Yellowstone National Park Established (1872)
March 2
Theodore Geisel, or Dr. Seuss, Born (1904)
March 3
World Wildlife Day and Creation of CITES (1973)
March 4
Hot Springs National Park Established (1921)
March 5
Lynn Margulis, Evolutionary Biologist, Born (1938)
March 6
Martha Burton Williamson, Pioneering Malacologist, Born (1843)
March 7
Luther Burbank Born (1849)
March 8
Everett Horton Patents the Telescoping Fishing Rod (1887)
March 9
The Turbot War Begins (1995)
March 10
Cape Lookout National Seashore Established (1966)
March 11
Save the Redwoods League Founded (1918)
March 12
Charles Young, First African-American National Park Superintendent, Born (1864)
March 12
Girl Scouts Founded (1912)
March 13
National Elephant Day, Thailand
March 14
First National Wildlife Refuge Created (1903)
March 15
Harold L. Ickes, Secretary of the Interior, Born (1874)
March 16
Amoco Cadiz Runs Aground (1978)
March 17
St. Patrick and Ireland’s Snakes
March 18
Nation’s First Wildlife Refuge Created (1870)
March 19
When the Swallows Return to Capistrano
March 20
“Our Common Future” Published (1987)
March 21
International Day of Forests
March 22
World Water Day
March 23
Sitka National Historical Park Created (1910)
March 24
John Wesley Powell, Western Explorer, Born (1834)
March 25
Norman Borlaug, Father of the Green Revolution, Born (1914)
March 26
Marjorie Harris Carr, Pioneering Florida Conservationist, Born (1915)
March 27
Trans-Alaska Pipeline Begun (1975)
March 28
Joseph Bazalgette, London’s Sewer King, Born (1819)
March 29
Niagara Falls Stops Flowing (1848)
March 30
The United States Buys Alaska (1867)
March 31
Al Gore, Environmental Activist and U.S. Vice President, Born (1948)
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