Friday, December 7, 2012

Hawksbill Turtles in the Bahamas

A Great sighting at Small Hope Bay Lodge

The divers at Small Hope Bay Lodge, after a few days of higher then normal winds, woke up Thursday morning to a perfectly calm sea and they knew it was going to be a great day. Giant staircase, a wall dive, was on the docket for the morning. This dive would take the group over the edge to 120 feet to cruise along a beautiful section of the wall, and then bring them back up to the top of the wall at approx 65 feet to hang out exploring the corals for the remainder of the dive.

The dive started off great, after getting down to their maximum depth of 120 feet a couple Caribbean Reef Sharks cruised by to say good morning. Everyone felt great after seeing the sharks and they would have been more then satisfied with that. Little did they know however that another surprise was waiting for them at the top of the wall.

Once they all made it back to 65 feet an extremely curious Hawksbill Turtle was there to greet them. This turtle was not phased at all by the divers and came very close to say hello and give everyone an opportunity to take some great pictures, and in the case of divemaster Dennis some wicked video footage!

Divers Paul and Axel admire the beautiful Hawksbill Turtle
The Hawksbill Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata is classified as critically endangered on the IUNC (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Redlist of Threatened Species. They are migratory marine reptiles that are found in tropical and subtropical waters. Hawksbill sea turtles, like other marine turtles, have a flattened body shape, a protective carapace or shell and flipper-like arms, adapted for swimming in the open ocean. They are however easily distinguishable from other sea turtles as they have a sharp, curving beak

There are many challenges facing this beautiful species, some of which include;

Direct take: both eggs and adults for food, adults for the tortoiseshell trade
Fishing Impacts: accidental capture and entanglement in nets and long lines
Beach Front Development: alters or destroys nesting beach habitat
Pollution: Injestible platics in the ocean are a huge threat. The turtles will either mistake the plastic for food and injest the harmful trash or young turtles will find themselves entangled in the plastic and unable to get out, they will continue to grow around the obstuction causing restrictions and mutations to their shell.    

Hawksbills are also threatened by the loss of coral reef communities which act as their feeding sites.  Ocean conservation has never been more important then it is today. Our oceans are threatened by pollution, climate change, exploitation and development. If we want to continue to have amazing sightings like the one our divers had at Small Hope Bay Lodge  we need to do our part to protect our oceans and coral reef systems. 

Find out how you can help!  
Visit these sites and do your part to protect our seas and those that inhabit them! 

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