Why hawksbill sea turtles are our cause of the month

CAUSE OF THE MONTH

Hawksbill sea turtle habitat conservation

ABOUT

Keeping coral healthy for over 100 million years

Sea turtles are some of the most ancient creatures on our planet. Hawksbill sea turtles have been swimming in our oceans since the time of the dinosaurs and are still found in tropical waters all around the world. They spend most of their time in coral reefs, rocky areas, lagoons, mangroves, shallow coastal areas, and on oceanic islands. They’re highly migratory and will travel long distances between their feeding and nesting grounds.


Named for their narrow heads and sharp, bird-like beaks, hawksbills feed almost exclusively on sponges they find in the hard-to-reach cracks and crevices of coral reefs. A single hawksbill sea turtle can consume over 1,000 pounds of sponges each year. Without hawksbills to keep their populations in check, sponges can overgrow corals and suffocate our reefs, which means hawksbills are absolutely crucial to the health of the ocean.

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CONSERVATION STATUS

Critically endangered

Hawksbills were almost hunted to extinction and human activity has caused their populations to decline by more than 80% in the last century.


Today, hawksbills are considered critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. It’s estimated that there are less than 20,000 breeding females left in the entire world.
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THREATS

Voted most likely to ingest plastic

Hawksbills are perhaps the most beautiful sea turtle because of their brightly colored and elaborately patterned shells. They’re also the only sea turtle species hunted specifically because of their beautiful shells, which are used to make decorative and ornamental items like jewelry and furniture. Demand for “tortoiseshell” products got so high that these turtles were hunted to the brink of extinction. And while the sale of sea turtle products was internationally banned in the 1990s, an illegal trade continues to thrive.



In addition to the illegal wildlife trade, the combined threats of human activities like overfishing and bycatch, climate change, habitat loss and degradation, pollution, and the illegal harvesting of their meat and eggs for human consumption have caused hawksbills to become critically endangered.


Plastic pollution is a relatively new issue that threatens these already vulnerable animals. A 2013 study of plastic ingestion in sea turtles found that hawksbills were most likely to ingest plastic; more evidence, if we needed it, that our mission to end the ocean plastic crisis aren’t just necessary, but mission critical.

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PARTNER OF THE MONTH

Sustainable Coastlines Hawai'i

We’re donating $1 to our friends at Sustainable Coastlines Hawai'ii for every Hawksbill Sea Turtle Bracelet sold this month. Our donation will help fund their Marine Debris Rapid Response Program, which helps keep Hawai'i’s marine habitats free from fishing nets and other harmful marine debris.

DOUBLE YOUR IMPACT

Join the Clean Ocean Club to pull 2 pounds and donate $2 every month

SMALL ACTS ADD UP

Discover more ways to support the clean ocean movement