information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles

Hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.



Eretmochelys imbricata is one of the smaller turtle species, with a carapace (shell) of up to 1 m and weighing up to 80 kg. The beak-shaped mouth has lead to the species common name of hawksbill. The carapace of this species is amber in colour with reddish-brown, blackish-brown streaks and can also have yellow markings.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

With such few recordings, this species could be considered a vagrant in UK waters.

Global distribution



Hawksbills use different habitats at different stages of their life cycle. Adults are usually not found in shallow marine habitats (unless coming ashore to nest), whereas small juveniles are rarely far from the shallowest coral reefs in tropical waters and therefore unlikely to be found in the British Isles.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Up to a 1 m in length and weigh up to 80 kg.
  • Carapace is amber streaked with reddish-brown, blackish-brown and yellow markings.
  • Mouth is beak-shaped.

Additional information

Populations of hawksbill are threatened with decline as a result of a number of factors, including loss of nesting sites, accidental entanglement in fishing line and the destruction of coral reefs which provide a feeding ground.

Listed by

Further information sources

Search on:


  1. Anonymous, 1999ii. Marine turtles. Grouped Species Action Plan, 2001-07-09

  2. Brongersma, L.D., 1972. European Atlantic Turtles. Leiden. Zoologische Verhandlingen.

  3. Costello, M.J., Bouchet, P., Boxshall, G., Emblow, C. & Vanden Berghe, E., 2004. European Register of Marine Species [On-line].,

  4. National Research Council, 1990. Decline in Sea Turtles: Causes and Prevention. Washington, D.C: National Academy Press.

  5. Penhallurick, R.D., 1990. Turtles off Cornwall, the Isles of Scilly and Devonshire. Truro: Dyllansow Pengwella.

  6. Red List Standards & Petitions Subcommittee, 1996. Eretmochelys imbricata. In: IUCN 2006.,

  7. US Fisheries & Wildlife Service, 2005. Hawksbill Sea Turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata). [On-line].,


  1. Marine Environmental Monitoring, 2018. Marine Turtles. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-01.

  2. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  3. OBIS (Ocean Biogeographic Information System),  2021. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2021-12-04

  4. Rotherham Biological Records Centre, 2017. Rotherham Biological Records Centre - Non-sensitive Records from all taxonomic groups. Occurrence dataset: accessed via on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Harris, R. 2007. Eretmochelys imbricata Hawksbill turtle. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 04-12-2021]. Available from:

Last Updated: 03/09/2007