Methanol-toluene extracts of 17 common Antarctic marine sponges collected from shallow waters in McMurdo Sound in October-December 1989 were tested for suppression of growth of bacteria (gram-positive and negative), yeasts and fungi. Weak to moderate levels of antimicrobial activity occurred in all sponges. Antimicrobial activity was more common when gram-negative bacteria were exposed to sponge extracts; 47% of the sponge extracts caused growth inhibition in one or more gram-positive bacteria, while 100% of the extracts caused growth inhibition in gram-negative bacteria. Particularly strong activity was observed against two species of gram-positive bacteria exposed to extracts of the spong Latrunculia apicalis and against one strain of gram-negative bacterium exposed to extracts of the sponge Haliclona sp. Antimicrobial responses against yeasts and fungi were generally non-existent or weak, with the exception of the yeast Candida tropicalis, which was strongly inhibited by extracts of the sponges Homaxonella balfourensis, Dendrilla membranosa, Kirkpatrickia variolosa, Gellius bene deni, Cinachyra antarctica and Scolymastia joubinia. Antimicrobial activity in these polar sponges is widespread but generally weaker than that found in temperate and tropical sponges. © 1992, Antarctic Science Ltd. All rights reserved.