The Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricate, is a species of sea turtle that lives throughout the tropical regions of the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian Oceans. They are typically found around coastal reefs and rocky areas, while avoiding deeper waters. Hawksbills have been sighted in U.S. waters like the Caribbean and Puerto Rico, but have been known to go as far south as Brazil. The Hawksbill turtle gets its name from its narrow beak; it uses to eat its favorite food, sponges, out of small crevices on reefs. Hawksbills are omnivorous and are known to also consume sea urchins, barnacles, and sea grasses. An interesting adaptation that the hawksbill has is the ability to absorb toxins through the fat in their body when certain sponges are consumed. They also sport a carapace with a variety of colors, like red, brown, orange, or black. They can range from an average of 100 – 150 lbs. They are currently on the endangered species list, due to the trade of hawksbill products around the globe, but their numbers are continually declining.
|Hawksbill Sea Turtle|
We sighted a Hawksbill turtle at Coffin Patch in the Florida Keys. It was very curious and swam alongside us for about a minute before swimming off into the distance. Like many other sea turtles, hawksbills live solitary lives, except for when finding a mate. Every 2-3 years, turtles return the same beach where they were born to lay their eggs. This usually occurs between April and November. However, hawksbills lest in low densities along scattered beaches. Alongside the typical risks that hatchlings face, these turtles also fall prey to sharks, octopus, crocodiles, and humans especially.
There are many threats that contribute to the decline in Hawksbill turtles globally. This includes development of nesting areas, coral reef loss, oil spills, and exploitation of the turtle’s shell by humans. Despite these dangers, there are conservation efforts to try to protect these turtles, such as the ban on international trade of turtle products. There are also areas that are designated as critical habitat zones in the coastal waters around Puerto Rico. I felt blessed to be able to see the Hawksbill in the wild, while I can.