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Aquaculture poses a sustainable alternative to wild harvest of sponges which has devastated natural populations in regions where collecting has traditionally been the main source of supply. Natural sponges are sought after by cosmetic and industrial cleaning companies due to their highly absorbent skeletons. At present, international demand for bath sponges far outweighs the supply reserves. The world sponge industry, which is primarily supplied by the Mediterranean and the Caribbean, is worth over $40 million.

AIMS has established pilot projects for sponge farming in the Torres Strait and the Palm Islands in collaboration with local indigenous communities. This is a first for Australia and both ventures are moving towards commercial start-ups which, if successful, will provide new employment and training opportunities in remote areas of tropical Australia.

Sponges are animals with low maintenance needs, requiring no artificial feeding, making sponge farms a suitable venture for areas where facilities are limited and the health of corals reefs and water quality are a concern.

AIMS has also pioneered aquaculture of sponges near its Western Australian facility to produce chemicals needed for pre-clinical trials of promising drug leads.