The hawksbill sea turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) is a critically endangered sea turtle belonging to the family Cheloniidae. The hawksbill's appearance is similar to that of other marine turtles. In general it has a flattened body shape, a protective carapace, and flipper-like arms, adapted for swimming in the open ocean.
Hawksbills are named for their narrow, pointed beak. They also have a distinctive pattern of overlapping scales on their shells that form a serrated-look on the edges. It is easily distinguished from other sea turtles by its sharp, curving beak with prominent tomium, and the saw-like appearance of its shell margins.
While this turtle lives part of its life in the open ocean, it spends more time in shallow lagoons and coral reefs. Human fishing practices threaten Hawksbill sea turtle populations with extinction. The World Conservation Union classifies the hawksbill as critically endangered. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species outlaws the capture and trade of hawksbill sea turtles and products derived from them.
Adult hawksbill sea turtles have been known to grow up to 1 m (3 ft) in length, weighing around 80 kg on average. The heaviest hawksbill ever captured was measured to be 127 kg. The turtle's shell, or carapace, has an amber background patterned with an irregular combination of light and dark streaks, with predominantly black and mottled-brown colors radiating to the sides.
Due to its consumption of venomous cnidarians, hawksbill sea turtle flesh can become toxic. Male Hawksbill turtles have more intense pigmentation than females, and a behavioural role of these differences is speculated.
Throughout the world, hawksbill sea turtles are taken by humans, though it is illegal to hunt them in many countries. In some parts of the world, hawksbill sea turtles are eaten as a delicacy. As far back as the fifth century BC, sea turtles, including the hawksbill, were eaten as delicacies in China.
Many cultures also use turtles' shells for decoration. These turtles have been harvested for their beautiful shell since Egyptian times, and the material known as tortoiseshell is normally from the hawksbill.
Consensus has determined sea turtles, including E. imbricata to be, at the very least, threatened species because of their slow growth and maturity, and slow reproductive rates.