Hawksbill Turtle

The Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is one of the four species of sea turtles confirmed in our Dutch Caribbean waters and beaches. As a globally widespread sea turtle occurring throughout tropical waters, the Hawksbill nests on all of our six islands­—regarded as an infrequent nester on Saba.

Critically endangered (IUCN1), listed on CITES2 Appendix II and SPAW3 Annex II, the Hawksbill is a global key conservation species and is also a highly protected species in the Dutch Caribbean as part of our local sea turtle conservation initiatives.

The Hawksbill Turtle’s “beak” resembles that of a bird of prey. It is an opportunistic predator feeding on invertebrates; sponges comprise most of its diet. They can grow to about 85 centimeters in carapace length (females), weighing between 45-75 kilograms. They take quite some years to reach maturity and can start breeding around their second decade; nesting may occur every two to three years, laying four to five clutches of about 60 to 200 eggs.

[Read more: Conserving Sea Turtles]

Hawksbills thrive along coastal reefs and bays, foraging in clear, relatively shallow waters. Thus, it is of great importance to conserve the marine environment as well as sandy beaches on which sea turtles nest. As a migrating species, Hawksbills move back and forth from feeding to breeding grounds; hence local (inter-island), regional and international cooperation is essential for the survival of our threatened sea turtle species.

Beach erosion, coastal development, pollution, incidental capture, wildlife trade and turtle/eggs consumption is attributed to the decline of this species. To prevent further loss on the Hawksbill population—and other sea turtle species—conservation strategies such as beach keeping and nest monitoring have been put into practice during breeding seasons to ensure a high hatching success.

[Find out more about sea turtle conservation organisations in the Dutch Caribbean: Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire; St. Maarten Nature Foundation; STENAPA; TurtugAruba]

1International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species
2Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
3Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife
IUCN Red List of Threatened Species
World Wildlife Fund