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Sustainable Sponge Farming

Sustainable Sponges are grown in the sheltered lagoons of Pohnpei, Micronesia.  Sponge farming in Micronesia was started by the Marine and Environmental Research Institute of Pohnpei (MERIP) as a means of generating a sustainable livelihood for local community members, many of whom have no access to running water or electricity, and little means of earning money.

Two species of sea sponges are grown in Micronesia, the bath sponge (Cosinoderma matthewsi) and the smaller cosmetic sponge (Spongia matamata).  Both species of sponge have a porous skeleton made of spongin, a type of collagen that is very soft and highly water absorbant. Cuttings are taken from large, healthy sponges, which are then cut into small pieces, about the size of a tennis ball, and threaded onto underwater lines that are suspended in sheltered lagoons.  The sponge pieces are left to grow in the lagoon for around two years before harvesting. Sea sponges are primitive, filter-feeding animals and do not need to be fed.   Although sea sponges are animals, they have no nerves and cutting them causes no pain. No chemicals are used in the farming process. Free divers remove seaweed and encrusting animals from the sponges and culture lines by hand each month.

Diver with farmed sponges
Threading Sponges
When the sponges have grown into a nice rounded shape and ideal size they are harvested. The sponges are left in the air to dry for several hours and then placed in baskets and returned to the lagoon for a few weeks.  This process removes all the organic matter from the sponge, leaving the odorless collagen skeleton, which will become your Sustainable Sponge.

The sponges are cleaned by washing them twice in a household washing machine and then air dried. This process gives the sponges a superior softness.  Sustainable Sponges are not bleached or treated with any harsh chemicals but are left in their natural colour.  Marine biologists from MERIP check the quality of each sponge before it is packaged and sold.

For more information on MERIP visit http://ww.meripmicronesia.orgMERIP logo

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