Hawksbill Project Continues Efforts in the Florida Keys
Larry Wood, Ph.D., Research Coordinator,
National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation
The Florida Hawksbill Project, sponsored by The National Save The Sea Turtle Foundation, continues to gather data on the hawksbill turtles that inhabit Florida’s nearshore environments. Thanks to the Foundation’s resources in the Key West and our friends at Florida International University in Key Largo, we have been able to focus some of our surveys on the shallow reefs of the lower, middle, and upper Keys to complement the work we’ve done north of there in Palm Beach County.
Dr. Wood with a young Hawksbill Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata
from the Florida Keys.
This year, so far, we’ve found 21 hawksbills during 26.0 hours in the water in the Keys, so almost one per hour of searching, which is really quite good! Of those 21 we sighted, we were able to hand-capture 15 to collect measurements and samples, so our capture rate is right around 70%. We appreciate the hawksbills’ lazy attitude concerning our in-water approach! These captures have generated important tissue samples for our stable-isotope movement and distribution study, blood samples for our hematology/cytology study, and lots of tiny organisms for Tom Frankovich’s diatom studies. I’d like to thank all the hardy volunteer helpers who brave the waters all day long in search of these elusive little turtles (in no specific order):
Hawksbills are famous for their beautiful
shells, which is evident on this specimen.
We hope populations recover with reductions
in the global trade of products made
from this material.
Jef Otten, Cole Reintsma, Jamie Serino, Lindsay Cross, Layna Moehl, Anna Bennett, Stefanie Ouellette, Tom and Didi Frankovich, Virginia Fourquean, and our great Captain Nick Reeves.

There are some observations coming out of our work so far in the Keys, and we’ll keep you posted on what more we find!

  • This year, we have encountered several more of the very small ones, less than 30 cm long. These are probably from the same year-class, and have arrived recently from the offshore environment.
  • We did not see any of the tagged turtles from last year though we visited the same places repeatedly. This suggests they are mobile at this stage rather than tied to specific locations for extended periods of time.
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