The Hawksbill Turtle

(Eretmochelys imbricata)

The Hawksbill turtle is named for its hawk-like beak.  This beak allows them to feed on sponges, corals and other invertebrates.  Because of this toxic diet, in some parts of the world eating hawksbill flesh can be fatal to humans.  Hawksbills can weigh up to 200-300lbs and measure up to 3 feet in length.  There are two visible claws on each flipper.  They are the most tropical of all sea turtles, preferring to live in clear shallow water so they are the most commonly seen turtle when snorkeling and diving.  They nest mostly on isolated rocky beaches around Trinidad and Tobago.

For centuries Hawksbills were prized for their beautiful hard shell, made up of overlapping amber plates mottled with brown, black and yellow.  This “tortoise shell” from which a variety of ornamental craft and jewelry are made was highly sought after prior to the introduction of (CITES), The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna.  Trading in turtle shells and turtle shell products has been banned internationally, however some turtle shell ornaments still make it clandestinely onto the local market.  This is illegal and the purchaser could face stiff penalties, so Buyer Beware!

Hawksbill populations continue to decline in many parts of the world and are listed as critically endangered worldwide due to over-exploitation, degradation of marine and nesting habitats, incidental mortality relating to marine fisheries.

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