Hawksbill sea turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata (Threats and conservation measures)

Credit for the photo: Glenda Vélez Calabria (Colombia)

Review: Abdel Rahman El Gamal (Site and video channel founder)

This photo was taken at mundo marino and te mostramos lo que pasa en el fondo, Colombia

The role of Hawksbills in the ecosystem is significant. For example, the hawksbills have been found essential for healthy reefs through controlling sponges which would otherwise out-compete reef-building corals for space. However, the turtle populations are facing variety of threats which could be summarized in the followings:

Tortoiseshell Trade: Within the last 100 years, millions of Hawksbills have been killed for the tortoiseshell markets of Europe, the United States and Asia. This problem becomes even worse especially as estimated; about 30% of the turtles taken for the trade were nesting females. The international and domestic prohibitions led to a decline of the red volume. However, in some parts of the world (Americas and South East Asia), the trade of tortoiseshell which is used for decorative purposes continues to represent a persistent threat to the hawksbills populations.

Egg Collection and meat consumption: Egg exploitation and collection continue in many parts of the world, especially Southeast Asia. Also, Hawksbills are slaughtered for meat consumption in many areas. Turtle meat is also used by fishermen as shark bait.

Loss and destruction of nesting and foraging habitats: Activities such as tourism, oil refineries as well as recreation and commercial use led to the loss and destruction of the habitats for the nesting Hawksbills.

The destruction of coral reef habitats is another issue of concern and considered a major threat to hawksbill populations especially this species of sea turtles relies on coral reefs for food and shelter. Therefore, factors that affect coral reefs would ultimately threaten hawksbills; climate change, siltation, indiscriminate anchoring, pollution and disease are examples.

Incidental entanglement in fishing gear and ingestion of debris:  Hawksbills represent the highest proportion of all sea turtles which got entangled in monofilament gill nets or captured on fishing hooks; flippers are mostly get lost. Similarly, the ingestion of marine debris in hawksbills –especially juveniles- is significant. The abiotic debris includes plastic bags, plastic pellets, Styrofoam pieces, tar balls, and balloons). The debris ingestion may lead to the obstruction of the gut, and/or the absorption of toxic byproducts.

Pollution: Among the different sources of pollution, the oil pollution and its impact on Hawksbills is more common and may turn to a major problem.

Human presence and disturbance: The nesting turtles and incubating egg clutches are more affected by the increased human activities and disturbances. The presence of people, noise, campfires and flashlights has hindered the nesting of female hawksbills.

Conservation measures: The World Conservation Union classifies the hawksbill as critically endangered. Moreover, Hawksbill turtles are protected by various international treaties and agreements as well as national laws. They are listed in Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which means that international trade of this species as well as products derived from them is prohibited.

Note: If you are interested to know about the description, feeding and reproduction of the Hawksbill sea turtle, you are kindly requested to visit this post on the site.

Hawksbill sea turtle




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