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Communities in bid to soak up sea sponge benefits

Extract from Australian Broadcasting Corporation - ABC Online, on 17 August 2004


A science venture is working with Indigenous groups in northern Australia to farm sea sponges for commercial sale.

The Australian Institute of Marine Science has discovered more than 30 species of bath sponges in Torres Strait waters and is working to break into the lucrative global market.

Project leader Alan Duckworth says sponge farms could inject millions of dollars into Indigenous communities.

"We can develop methods that are reasonably low-tech that can be used in very remote Indigenous communities," Dr Duckworth said.

"Once a sponge is dry and processed it can be stored and transported very cheaply so that's why it's possible that it's a very good cottage industry for coastal Indigenous communities throughout Australia."

Scientist Libby Evans-Ilidge says sponge aquaculture is ideal for remote locations.

"The requirement for infrastructure and overheads is minimal, the product once it's harvested and processed doesn't need to be refrigerated and all of those factors like transport and refrigeration for preservation of product that usually needs to be taken into account with say aquaculture of seafood species is simply not a factor with sponges," she said.


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