The Hawksbill Sea Turtle, a Critically Endangered Species

Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)
by B. N. Sullivan

This is the Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata), listed as Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). This turtle species inhabits all tropical and subtropical seas around the world, but its numbers continue to decline.

The IUCN Hawksbill Turtle page notes:
extensive subpopulation declines in all major ocean basins over the last three Hawksbill generations as a result of over-exploitation of adult females and eggs at nesting beaches, degradation of nesting habitats, take of juveniles and adults in foraging areas, incidental mortality relating to marine fisheries, and degradation of marine habitats.
The IUCN estimates that "the overall decline of the species, when considered within the context of three generations, has been in excess of 80%."

While habitat degradation, trafficking in turtle eggs and meat, and incidental catch by marine fisheries threaten all sea turtle species, the Hawksbill population also has suffered due to what is known as the Tortoiseshell trade.  "Tortoiseshell" -- the material used for combs, hair ornaments, and inlays on furniture and other decorative items  -- comes not so much from tortoises, but from the carapaces of Hawksbill Turtles. Tortoiseshell collection and trade has been banned under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) since 1973, yet enforcement in some parts of the world remains lax.

I photographed the Hawksbill Sea Turtle on this page at Thomas Reef in the Tiran Straits of the Red Sea.

More information about Hawksbill Sea Turtles;

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