Tag: Sponge Fishing

Sponge and Chamois News and Issues

Below is a list of sponge and chamois news and issues related articles. These articles relate to our products, industry and interests. We hope you find them as interesting and informative as we do.


09/2017 –  Tarpon Springs sponge company goes back to family roots

Acme Sponge and Chamois Co. in Tarpon Springs has sold its chamois business to Hopkins Manufacturing Corp…Acme will continue to operate its natural and synthetic sponge business as The Acme Sponge Company, which was not part of the transaction, a press release said.

“The chamois business was almost completely automotive in nature while the sponge business spans bath, cosmetic, paint, general cleaning and hardware. Hopkins focus is automotive. Chamois was a perfect fit for them,” Jim Cantonis, president of Acme, told Tampa Bay Business Journal. “We now take Acme Sponge back to our family roots.”…read more


05/2017 –  The More You NOAA: What Budget Cuts Mean for Florida’s Sponge Business

The Trump administration has proposed cuts to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) budget that will have huge impacts on the economies of coastal communities. Growing up in Florida, I know that these cuts mean more to my community than numbers on a spreadsheet. For so many of my neighbors, from the commercial fisherman to the marine researcher, these cuts will impact how they make a living and provide for their families…read more


08/2016Dirty Microfiber and Plastic Fish

Although microfiber cloth and microbeads seemed to allow for a new generation of drying and scrubbing products, we are only now beginning to understand their impacts on our environment. These types of products are made from plastics or synthetic materials that are not biodegradable, but are small enough that they cannot be filtered out by existing water treatment systems. And, as a result, are eventually washed out into our lakes, rivers and oceans to become microplastic litter. The primary source of mircoplastic litter, the most prevalent of which is microfibers, are produced from washing synthetic or microfiber cloth…read more


12/2015Tarpon Springs Business Links its Success to Florida Sea Grant

Jim Cantonis is president of Acme Sponge and Chamois of Tarpon Springs, Fla., a successful processor and wholesaler of marine sponges and sheepskin chamois products sold around the world. Florida Sea Grant contributes to the company’s success by conducting research in the biology of marine sponges that helps ensure the sustainability of the commercial fishery…read more


10/2015Clean the Fleece, Dirty the Planet

It’s getting cold. Time to break out the fleece. Warm and light, it even comes in a nice shade of green: a lot of the material used to make fleece comes from recycled plastic bottles — better in your sweater than in a landfill.

Green that is, until you run it through the washing machine. That’s when thousands of plastic microfibers get flushed into the sewer system and on to some stream, lake, river and ocean…read more


08/2014Restoring Florida Bay: Sponges the foundation for thriving ecosystem

Prior to the 1990s the Florida Keys sponge community was a lively underwater city for fish and invertebrates. Curious divers could hear the snap, crackle and pop of snapping shrimp. The noisy bottom was a sign of health for the organisms that provide nursery habitat to juvenile marine species.
But now when divers plunge to the bottom, it’s as if the sponge community is on mute. There is no hustle and bustle of creatures foraging for their next meal, only silence…read more


08/2014Sponges: The Keys to the Keys
Where have all the sponges gone? Healthy sponge populations are an important part of the Florida Keys ecosystem. But a series of harmful algal blooms has essentially eliminated once thriving sponge communities over large areas of Florida Bay and the Keys. Can this critical habitat
recover? With Florida Sea Grant funding, researchers are now testing transplant techniques to see if they can accelerate the restoration process. Initial results are promising…read more

Tarpon Springs History

The City of Tarpon Springs is located at the mouth of the Anclote River on the Gulf of Mexico in central Florida. Probably inspired by the tarpon that inhabit the nearby waters, the name Tarpon Springs was given to the settlement that appeared there sometime in the 1860s or 1870s. The Orange Belt Railway, which served as the major transportation route, arrived in Tarpon Springs in 1887, making it a hub of import and export of both people and cargo. And the same year Tarpon Springs became the first city to be incorporated on the Pinellas peninsula. The construction of Anclote Key lighthouse made transportation to and from Tarpon Springs by sea safer. These improvements in transportation made Tarpon Springs a popular winter resort for wealthy northerners in the late 18th and early 19th century.

The Sponge Diving Industry in Tarpon Springs

Key West fishermen, in search of turtles, accidently discovered the sponge beds off the mouth of the Anclote River in 1873 when their nets became snagged on them. Spongers from Key West relocated to Tarpon Springs to work the newly discovered beds and some of them stayed, helping grow the community. To process and pack the sponges, sponge-packing houses were built in Tarpon Springs during the 1890s and sponge presses were installed, prompting sponge buyers moved to town. The center of the sponge industry gradually shifted its center from Key West, Cuba and the Bahamas to Tarpon Springs and by 1900 the Tarpon Springs was considered the largest sponge port in the country.

The Greek Community in Tarpon Springs

Tarpon Springs History - Greek Sponge Divers early 1900's
Tarpon Springs History – Greek Sponge Divers early 1900’s

The first mechanized sponge boat was brought to Tarpon Springs in 1905 along with five hundred Greek sponge divers from all over the Greek islands. And over the next few years more immigrants followed and new businesses were established to serve the growing Greek community. Sponge divers, boat-builders, merchants and brokers all came to Tarpon Springs to live and work, creating a highly-integrated industry.

In 1906 the Sponge Exchange Bank was established to support industry activities. And two years later, in 1908, the Sponge Exchange was founded. The Sponge Exchange was an organized system established for grading and selling the sponges. The original Sponge Exchange consisted of storage bins surrounding a central auction block in the center.

Acme Sponge Company in Tarpon Springs

In 1938 by Michael G. Cantonis founded the Acme Sponge and Chamois Company. At age 21, after borrowing $1000 from a friend, he went to New York and began importing and selling natural sponges from the Mediterranean. To be closer to its primary customer base, the company was moved to Chicago in 1947. And in the 1950s, imported natural chamois and synthetic sponges were added to the product line. In 1959 the company began planning a tannery to tan chamois leather, which was finally opened in 1962. And in 1977, Acme’s facilities were consolidated and relocated to Tarpon Springs, Florida, where they remain today.

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How Sea Sponges Are Harvested

Natural sea sponges are harvested from the bottom of the ocean by fishing boats that specialize in sponge fishing. These boats are often owned and operated by families who have been sponge divers for decades, or, in some cases, even centuries. In many areas around the world, sponge diving has been a family tradition for thousands of years.

What Are Sea Sponges

Sea sponges are aquatic animals that cling to a hard surfaces on the sea floor such as rocks or coral and, once attached, do not move around. They are classified as animals, but have neither a central nervous system nor brain. The processed sponges that are sold and used for cleaning are only part of the animal. Living sponges are coated with a dark elastic skin that has pores through which they move water to feed or filter nutrients. Between the inner and outer skins of the living sponge is a gray gelatinous substance called gurry. Processed sponges have had the outer skin and the gurry removed from the structural element or skeleton of the sponge. And it is that skeleton that we use as a sponge.

Sea Sponges are Harvested Sustainably

Sea sponges are harvested by divers using specially designed cutting hooks or knives. These leave enough of the base of the sponge for it to quickly regenerate. Once cut, the divers gently squeeze the gurry out of the sponge and take them back to the boats. The sponges are then pounded to clean them, and then covered with wet burlap sacks on the deck of the ship, where the heat from the sun releases a gas that rots the sponges’ skins so that they can be more easily removed.

Sponge Diver Mosaic Tarpon Springs Acme Sponge and Chamois
Sponge Diver Mosaic in Tarpon Springs
Acme Sponge and Chamois History

Sea Sponge Harvesting Techniques

Sea sponges are harvested in many different countries using a variety of methods, but in the United Sates, sponges are harvested using sustainable methods that actually help the sponge population as a whole. Specially trained divers, who regularly and systematically rotate fishing grounds, sustainably harvest sponges by cutting the sponge to ensure that the base is left intact, which will allow the sponge to quickly regenerate. Rotating the harvesting or fishing grounds allows the sponges time for healthy and productive regrowth, without impacting the natural habitat the sea sponge colonies are harvested from.

Sea Sponges are a Sustainable and Quickly Renewable Resource

Scientific studies have consistently confirmed that the regular harvesting of natural sponges actually enhances the health and population of the sponges by increasing the population and removing older sponges. Properly harvested, or cut, sponges will re-grow within a few years, producing a bigger and healthier sponge than it was originally. Pieces of sponge that are broken off in the harvesting process that settle back to the ocean floor and reattach to a hard object, can regrow into completely new sponges. Studies have repeatedly demonstrated that harvested colonies actually increase in their population density, and through this practice the overall sponge population.

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