The sponge Industry in the United States is located primarily on the west coast of Florida in Tarpon Springs. Around the turn of the century the industry was established by immigrants of predominantly C & reek origin from southeastern Europe, and their old-world methods of operation are still being used. From the time of its establishment until World War II the industry experienced an increasing amount of sales and prosperity. For example, during the 1940's sales of natural sponges climbed to approximately $3 million annually. After reaching their peak in the early 1940's sponge sales have declined up to the present time. Annual sales of domestic natural sponges have dropped from their approximately $3 million peak to an average annual figure of less than $400,000 between the years I960 and 1963. Persons engaged in the business of harvesting and selling sponges realize the existence of a problem, but they disagree concerning its causes and solutions. Sane industry members attribute the decline in sponge sales primarily to the invention of artificial sponges, whereas others see an inadequiate supply of divers as the main cause of their predicament. Suggested solutions include tariff protection, importation of middle-aged divers from the eastern Mediterranean, and government support of sponge prices. Confusion and diversity of opinion prevent spongers from taking steps toward a constructive solution of their problems. The bulk of the research that has been conducted on the sponge fisheries has emphasized the biological aspects of the Industry. The economic aspects of the Industry have either been totally Ignored or have been touched upon only Incidentally. The purpose of this study is to analyze the neglected economic and marketing aspects of the natural sponge Industry and to attempt to determine the real causes of Its problems. With the exception of landing statistics there Is virtually a complete lack of Information on the sponge fisheries between the years 1908 and 1937. Inasmuch as no such work has been undertaken before, an attempt has been made to bring together, analyze, and evaluate all factors of economic significance pertaining to the Florida sponge industry at its various stages of production and distribution. Because of the scarcity and fragmented nature of the available statistics on the sponge fisheries, past and present data have been supplemented by information obtained through interviews conducted with fishermen, packers, and sponge distributors and by the personal observation of the author. For example, most of the material presented in Chapter III is based upon information obtained from a sample of better than 80 per cent of the diving craft operating in the sponge fisheries in the summer of I964. Also, to obtain material in Chapter IV it was necessary to interview the entire packer population in Tarpon Springs, Florida. The section on distributors is based upon personal Interviews conducted by the author in New York and New Jersey. These interviews covered 30 per cent of the total distributors in the United States; however, according to trade association officials this 30 per cent sample Is responsible for more than 80 per cent of the sponge sales at the distributor level. Similarly, the Information on the operations of the Tarpon Springs Sponge Exchange and the Sponge and Chamois Institute were obtained through interviews with the officials of these organizations and through personal observations by the author* Foreign competition and competition by artificial substitutes have also been examined in order to evaluate their impact on the natural sponge industry of Florida, Information on foreign competition was obtained through correspondence with U.S. Department of State officials in sponge-producing countries and foreign government officials of such countries. Such information was further supplemented by correspondence and personal interviews with U.S. Customs officials and International Trade specialists in Atlanta, Georgia. Data on synthetics were obtained through correspondence with home offices and interviews with the regional representatives of the major synthetic producers in Atlanta, Georgia. Because of such factors as the very small size of the populations involved, the great length of time spent in contacting individual respondents, the language problem, and the lengthy and wide-ranging nature of the responses, it was not practical to attempt to crystallize the data-gathering process into formal questionnaire form; therefore, most of the prepared questionnaires were used loosely as interview guides (see Appendix A). The results of the present study have led to the identification of the problems of the sponge industry and to recommendations which, it is hoped, will benefit the Florida sponge interests in the long run. At this stage it may be useful to point out that the recommended course of action may not completely solve the problems of the sponge interests In Florida; however, correct problem recognition is of paramount importance in determining any future course of action for the Florida sponge industry.