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Another Place, Another Time:The Ties That Bind
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Page 1 of 1Total of 2 messages
Posted by:Feb 18th 2009, 11:52:28 am
KimberlySolid writing, as always.

"In 1992 state and federal governments outlawed all sponging in South Florida's national parks. And since then sponges have joined a list of once abundant animals - including lobster, conch, turtles, and grouper - that are now protected by law. And a related law makes it a felony to trade any wildlife taken in contravention of those protections.

Today, although some commercial harvesting still takes place, the sponge trade is more of a tourist attraction in Florida. Nevertheless, Tarpon Springs has managed to preserve a strong Greek character and maritime heritage. In fact, the museum where the Bahamian Connection exhibit was held sits on the edge of a marine inlet where the Greeks celebrate the Epiphany each year by throwing a cross into the sea for divers to retrieve - the same ceremony practised by Nassau Greeks. And the imposing St Nicolas Greek Orthodox Church is not far away.

Conservation and Culture
According to Dr Bucuvalas, "The Greeks gradually began to control municipal politics as the majority or by allying themselves with black Tarponites. Blacks of Bahamian descent had arrived in Tarpon Springs from Key West in the late 19th century. They often developed close relationships with the Greeks when they worked on the boats, and some learned to speak Greek with a Dodecanese accent.

"Since the Bahamian Greek community is small, many members have sought marriage partners in Tarpon Springs. The dominant population in both locations is from the Dodecanese Islands and particularly Kalymnos, so people have also looked to their home islands when they decided to marry. Consequently, the two communities share an extensive and intricate network of family ties...and Greeks still control the sponge business both communities."

But aside from its cultural fascination, the history of the Bahamas and Florida sponge fishery has important lessons for the future of other valuable marine resources like conch, lobster and grouper. These resources are not limitless. And they are valuable not just in terms of our own pocketbook, but because of the contribution they make to the health of the natural ecosystems on which we rely.

As is the case today with the Nassau grouper, careful management is a critical challenge. It is a challenge we must meet if we are to maintain our present way of life."
Posted by:Feb 18th 2009, 11:35:29 am
Fig Tree News TeamBahamian Links to Tarpon Springs and the Death of the Sponge Trade
by Larry Smith

TARPON SPRINGS, Florida—As the mist rolled in across the bayou, local community leaders gathered at the Heritage Museum here last Thursday evening to celebrate their shared history with the Bahamas.

This city of 23,000 on Florida's west coast - about 30 miles north of Tampa - has had a Bahamian connection ever since an "adventurer from Nassau" named Joshua Boyer started the first family homestead here in 1877. At the time, both black and white Bahamian 'conchs' were hooking sponges and catching turtles from Key West all the way up the gulf coast.

In a 1928 newspaper article, Boyer reminisced about those pioneer days: "I came up the Anclote River on a fishing trip and by chance stopped off at Mr. Ormond's residence. I built a residence there, and the same year Miss Mary Ormond and I were married. Everything there was ours. The land and the game and fish were as free as air."

Sponger Money Never Done
But the biggest and best-known Bahamian connection - and the one that was celebrated last week - is the link between the Greek communities of Tarpon Springs and Nassau. Both had their origins in the sponge trade, which lasted less than a century and was one of the biggest revenue earners for both the Bahamas and Florida. As the song goes, in those days it seemed that sponger money was never done.

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