Sponging Season Begins to Wind Down
Local sponging boats are finishing up some of their final pushes of the season in Tarpon Springs.
A number of sponge companies in the area are taking advantage of the final weeks of sponging season in Tarpon Springs.
Although there is no exact date for the end of the season, the water temperature is one way to determine when it is near.
"Once you hit those temps, your body relatively shuts down and you can't work in that environment," Michaeljohn Targakis explained.
Around 70 degrees is the temperature that Targakis is talking about. That's when the spongers call it quits due to the wear and tear on their bodies.
Targakis, a veteran Tarponite, has been an asset to the sponge docks for decades and says that the difference in the sponging attire is what makes the cooler temperatures unbearable.
"You have to keep in mind that these guys aren't in the heavy duty suits anymore," said Targakis. "The gear is much lighter now."
Targakis' professional opinion is that the season will near its end over the next week or two. He says that the spongers are pushing for one final trip before the water gets too cool.
A mountain of sponges sat on the sponge docks in recent days because there is a business battle that Targakis says has been going on for centuries. Businesses and spongers must agree on the price of sponges, and if they don't, the product stays where it is. This becomes a problem for the spongers, because they must rid their boats of the sponges in order to free up room and complete one more trip before the season ends.
According to Targakis, there are anywhere between seven and 15 sponge boats from the Tarpon Springs docks that are active.
And merchants for the sponges don't just come from local shops. A wide variety of uses for the sponges make them a sought after product among a much larger population.
Aside from the retail aspect, the sponges harvested in Tarpon Springs can be used to complete drywalls and window panes as well as provide insulation.
For Tarpon Springs, sponging is not just an industry, it's more of a way of life. As more sponges are purchased, more jobs will pop up. Sponging is also an eco-friendly industry because the product itself does not clog up landfills.
Targakis says that the local sponging industry is thriving like it always has.
"There's more demand than there is supply," said Targakis.