Palm Island Sponges Aquaculture project

The Indigenous community of Palm Island, located approximately 60 kilometres off the coast of north Queensland, has very limited employment opportunities for its 3,000 inhabitants. With no industry, and an underdeveloped business sector, unemployment rates on the island are over 90%. The people of Palm Island identify the lack of employment opportunities as the most significant social issue impacting on quality of life on the island.

Business modelling shows that the enterprise will generate total annual sales of $4.75 million p/a, by Year 6 of operations and create 34 FTE positions on Palm Island by Year 7 of operations. In addition to employment creation across a range of occupations, the project presents significant opportunities for skills transfer and skills development for Palm Island residents.

The Palm Island Sponges Aquaculture project is a collaboration between the indigenous project proponent, Palm Island based labour and training provider, Coolgaree CDEP, the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS), on whose scientific research the project is based, and the Queensland Department of Economic Development which provides project management and business support services.

Extensive work has been completed on the project including market/product assessments, production and business modelling, business planning, extensive in-situ scientific research and the development of farm technology.

The key indigenous stakeholders - the local traditional owners, the Manbarra People and Coolgaree CDEP have negotiated an Indigenous Land Use Agreement (ILUA) that secures access for the new enterprise to the Manbarras Peoples traditional lands and waters. The ILUA was officially registered by the National Native Title Tribunal on the 22 December 2005.

While Coolgaree CDEP is the current project proponent, the ILUA identifies a new enterprise structure a charitable trust will be established to operate the enterprise through a proprietary limited company.

The operations of the new enterprise will commence with the construction of a .8 hectare research or pilot farm. The pilot farm will be used to refine sponge clone growout techniques, establish efficient farm management practices, and validate environmental management and monitoring systems and processes. Once the operational viability of the farm has been confirmed through the operations of the pilot farm, a further 7x4 hectare farms will be progressively established over the following five years.

In addition to growing sea sponges for cosmetic or bath sponge markets, the infrastructure can also potentially be used to grow identified species of sea sponge for the production of bio-active compounds that may have applications as pharmaceuticals, agrichemicals and agents of bio-remedial change.

The project proponents have applied for the relevant permits and approvals to
state and federal environmental regulatory authorities.

For further details of the project or to obtain a copy of the business plan, please contact Tim Bastian on 07 4799 7415.

Project description: 
The Palm Island Sponges Aquaculture Project presents the opportunity to establish a new enterprise on Palm Island that will grow and market 488,000 sea sponges per year for domestic and international cosmetic or bath sponge markets, generating 34 FTE positions (by Year 7) on Palm Island.
Lead Organisation: 
Coolgaree CDEP
Lead WWW: 

Mentor Type:

Contact Name: 
Tim Bastian
Contact Phone: 
07 4799 7415
Contact Mobile: 
0407 739 172
Contact Fax: 
07 4799 7069
Contact Email:
WWW: (N.B. must begin with http://)
Support Type: 
Capital and operational funding
Current Partners: 
Currency Type: 

Funding Amount:


Queensland - State-wide