|About Our Sponges|
I would like to share my thoughts on some things that might interest you about natural sponges...
The sea sponge is an interesting plant, or… is it an animal? It grows from a hard surface, like lime rock or any hard bottom and filters water, using what it needs to live, and exhausts the rest, all by means of an elaborate canal system.
It also repopulates with spores, which is why when you find a certain species you find a grove of the same kind. When harvested, the sponge diver cuts the sponge off from the bottom leaving a portion of it to grow again. This makes the sponge a renewable product of the sea.
Sponge divers are good stewards of the sea, when harvesting is done right. I only deal with divers with proper harvest methods. To harvest, the sponge is cut with a sharp knife, leaving an inch or so to grow back, the sponge is then squeezed to release the sponge spores into the same area to repopulate before tucking it into a catch bag to be brought on board.
An average sponge trip can be a month or more at sea depending on the crew and the weather. The average depth to dive for sponge is generally under one atmosphere or 33 feet. This depth provides the diver with maximum bottom time to harvest without having to surface. Any deeper and the bottom time must be reduced to avoid the bends. A top air compressor is used along with 100 to 300 feet of flex hose to force air to the divers face mask or regulator while walking the bottom. A weight belt and any variety of work clothes sum up the divers gear. I have even seen socks and tennis shoes worn!
Once the sponges are hoisted aboard they are all treated the same way. Whether it is the yellow sponge, sheep’s wool sponge, grass or vase sponge, or the finger sponge, they all must be processed. Each sponge has a thin skin like membrane that must be removed called the gurry. Water also is used to clean off the outer skin. This could take a few days for each load of sponge. The final product is a sponge skeleton or what you see for sale at the sponge exchange.
Of course there are other processes the sponge goes through before it is sold. The sponge is very durable and has many uses. Some are used for bathing (Sheeps Wool) cleaning & painting (Yellow) and some are used in the medical field. Some have industrial uses. Artists use them when throwing clay pots, and some are used as planters and baskets.
So the answer is….The natural sponge is a multiple celled animal, like coral. They reproduce naturally, regenerating after being cut off, or by spores. Indeed, each sponge is unique and a marvel of creation, and your sponge is also caught right here, in the Gulf of Mexico.
Care for your sponge, should you need to wash it, would require only hot soapy water (no bleach). Rinse with clean water, and then let set to air dry. You may wish to throw it in the washer, its up to you.. Natural sponges are hypoallergenic, need very little care, and will last for years.
Enjoy your treasure from the sea,