Fish ID: The Hawksbill Turtle

Fish ID: The Hawksbill Turtle

If you see a turtle whose carpace is dark amber with radiating streaks of brown or black and plastron in whitish-yellow, it is a hawksbill turtle. Its beak is strongly hooked, hence its name. The carapace has thick overlapping scales and serrated along the posterior edge. Hawksbill turtles live along coral reefs throughout the tropical oceans and eat coral sponges. You can meet this turtle around Maldivian islands quite often. When a hawksbill swims around a coral head and into a ray of sunlight, the resulting flash of color is a near heart-stopping experience. Hawksbill turtle has a unique and very important ecological role in the ecosystem, which is a result of a diet that is often rich in sponges; hawksbills manage the health of the reef by feeding on sponge.

Hawksbill turtles migrate hundreds of miles between their feeding grounds and nesting beaches to find the perfect place for their hatchlings.

An interesting fact is that they have their own sleeping place and return to that place night after night. Today, hawksbill turtle represent less than 10% of the population present a century ago, which in turn was probably less than 5% of the turtles present centuries before.

The World Conservation Union lists hawksbill as “critically endangered” on its Red List of Endangered Species.

One of the most difficult tasks is to develop and provide local conservation plans for the many places where hawksbills live and nest. As divers, we have to spread awareness about the importance of conserving these amazing creatures, do our best to protect them, and tell the world that alive turtles are worth more than their shells!