Meet the Hawksbill Sea Turtle – named for their sharp pointed mouths that resemble a bird’s beak. Hawksbill Turtles are also known for their beautiful shells which have distinctive colors and patterns.
Sea turtles are the living descendants of prehistoric reptiles that have existed in our planet’s oceans for over 100 million years. Needless to say they have been a fundamental link in our ocean’s eco-systems throughout that time.
The Hawksbill Turtle can be found in oceans all over the world, especially preferring tropical waters of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans.
They feed on a variety of marine life such as sponges, mollusks, crustaceans, marine algae, fish, sea urchins, and jellyfish. Hawksbill Turtles help maintain the health of coral reefs by removing prey from the reef’s surface, which in turn allows the corals to grow, and provides better access for reef fish to feed.
Unfortunately, Hawksbill Turtle numbers are declining rapidly, which could lead to detrimental impacts on coral reefs, and the marine life that depend on them.
Some of the greatest threats to the Hawksbill Turtle are of human impact. Although they are protected under international agreements, illegal hunting for their colorful shells (“tortoiseshell” goods) still remains a danger.
Despite their protected status, they are also killed for their meat and eggs. Prior to their protection they were hunted almost to the brink of extinction – yet they still remain highly vulnerable to extinction today.
Hawksbill turtles are also susceptible to by-catch – becoming entrapped in gillnets and caught on fishing hooks. Being unable to surface for air results in their drowning.
Like other sea turtle species, they are threated by the loss of nesting and feeding habitats; as well as pollution. It is estimated that over 100 million tons of plastic is in our Earth’s oceans. This pollution is responsible for killing innumerable marine animals each year. Sea turtles for example can die of starvation if they swallow plastic, as it causes gastrointestinal issues, and they are subsequently unable to swallow real food.
The Hawksbill Turtles’ status is critical. Take action by promoting and exercising safer fishing practices and living a more sustainable lifestyle.
Voice your concerns to Fisheries Management Organizations about the use of “turtle friendly” fishing hooks and fishing nets. In addition, you can reach out to government and conservation organizations to show support for protecting the Hawksbill Turtle’s habitats, and addressing illegal wildlife trade.