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  This act replaced and repealed a prior act of the same type, passed on June 20, 1906.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

May 1
Linnaeus Publishes “Species Plantarum” (1753)
May 2
“Peter and The Wolf” Premieres (1936)
May 3
Vagn Walfrid Ekman, Swedish Oceanographer, Born (1874)
May 4
Eugenie Clark, The Shark Lady, Born (1922)
May 5
Frederick Lincoln, Pioneer of Bird Banding, Born (1892)
May 6
Lassen Volcanic National Park Created (1907)
May 7
Nature’s Best Moms
May 8
David Attenborough Born (1926)
May 9
Thames River Embankments Completed (1874)
May 10
Birute Galdikas, Orangutan Expert, Born (1946)
May 11
“HMS Beagle” Launched (1820)
May 12
Farley Mowat, Author of “Never Cry Wolf,” Born (1921)
May 13
St. Lawrence Seaway Authorized (1954)
May 14
Lewis and Clark Expedition Began (1804)
May 15
Declaration of the Conservation Conference (1908)
May 16
Ramon Margalef, Pioneering Ecologist, Born (1919)
May 17
Australian BioBanking for Biodiversity Implemented (2010)
May 18
Mount St. Helens Erupts (1980)
May 19
Carl Akeley, Father of Modern Taxidermy, Born (1864)
May 20
European Maritime Day
May 21
Rio Grande Water-Sharing Convention Signed (1906)
May 22
International Day for Biological Diversity
May 23
President Carter Delivers Environmental Message to Congress (1977)
May 24
Bison Again Roam Free in Canada’s Grasslands National Park (2006)
May 25
Lacey Act Created (1900)
May 26
Last Model T Rolls Off the Assembly Line (1927)
May 27
A Day for the birds
May 27
Rachel Carson, Author of “Silent Spring,” Born (1907)
May 28
Sierra Club Founded (1892)
May 29
Stephen Forbes, Pioneering Ecologist, Born (1844)
May 30
Everglades National Park Created (1934)
May 31
The Johnstown Flood (1889)
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