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Regulations for the taking or catching of sponges. Hearings before the Committee on the merchant marine and fisheries, House of representatives, on S. 6385, [book]

1912 unpublished
The committee met at 10.30 o'clock a. m., Hon. Joshua W. Alexander (chairman) presidmg. Tlie Chairman. If there is no objection, we will go ahead with the hearing on Senate bill 6385, a bill to regulate the taking or catching of sponges in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico and Straits of Florida; the landing, delivermg, curing, selling, or disposmg of the same; providing means for enforcement of same; and for other purposes. This hearmg is held at the request of Mr. Sparkman, and we will
more » ... and we will proceed. STATEMENT OF HON. STEPHEN M. SPARKMAN, A REPRESENTA-TIVE FROM THE, STATE OF FLORIDA. Mr. Sparkman. Mr. Chairman, I shall make only a brief statement, the main purpose being to mtroduce a couple of gentlemen to the committee, Mr. This is not a new proposition here, for in 1906 there was quite an agitation coming, first, from Key West, where the sponge industry had been carried on for many years, and, secondly, from Tarpon Springs and vicinity, for some legislation on the subject, there having been none prior to that time, that is, no national legislation. After an extended hearing before the Committee on the Merchant Marine and Fisheries a bill was reported from that committee which was enacted into law and approved June 20, 1906. That law only undertook to prohibit the landing, delivering, curing, or offering for sale at any port or place in the United States any sponges taken by means of diving or diving apparatus from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico or Straits of Florida with a proviso that sponges taken or gathered by such process between October first and May first of each year in a greater depth of water than fifty feet shall not be subject to the provisions of this act: And providedfurther, That lio sponges taken from said waters shall be landed, delivered, cured, or offered for sale at any port or place in the United States of a smaller size than four inches in diameter. The trouble at that time, as I intimated a moment ago, came, first, frorn Key West. For a half century perhaps, sponging had been carried on in Florida waters, mostly in the waters north and northeast of the island of Key West. That was done by a method known 3 4 REGULATIONS FOR THE TAKING OR CATCHING OP SPONGES. as hooking, a very primitive means of gathering sponges. The operator takes a pole upon which a hook or hooks are placed with wliich, while lying face downward in a yawl or skiff boat, propelled through the water, and looking through a bucket-like contrivance with a glass bottom, he can look and gather the sponges at considerable depths, not greater, however, than 50 feet. You will observe, as I said, that was a very primitive method of carrying on that business. The business was carried on by this method for many years, and quite an industry had sprung up in Key West. Gradually working up the Gulf coast they had by 1905 extended their operations north of Tarpon Springs, a town about 35 miles northwest of Tampa, with Tarpon Springs as the center of operations. In other words, the sponges gathered north of Tamj)a Bay were carried into Tarpon Springs from time to time, cleaned, placed in marketable condition, and shipj)ed by rail to other markets. About 1904 or 1905 a lot of Greeks located there and inaugurated what is known as the diving method of gathering sponges, which soon worked a revolution in the industry and was rapidly driving the hookers out of the business. The divers could gather sponges
doi:10.5962/bhl.title.42769 fatcat:wuuradey2baabn2ltzwq4lg4zi