48" x 62" unframed
© SHELLEY HESSE 2015
Bahamas Fish was commissioned by two of my favorite clients here in New Orleans. They are as lovely and fun as the Bahamas themselves, so painting this piece for them was an absolute pleasure. The Hawksbill Sea Turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata, is the star of the show, even against the brightly colored Parrotfish and the Queen Angelfish. Sea turtles have survived for millions of years. They saw the dinosaurs come and go, but are now facing a decline like never before. They are an animal that has always spoken straight to my heart, so I’d like to speak up for them for a moment if I could. The Bahamian government has already made it illegal to catch turtles in their country’s waters; however, it’s not enough to save them. Coastal development and climate change are their biggest threats.
Considered by many to be the most beautiful of all sea turtles because of their beautiful shells, the Hawksbill is found in tropical waters around the world. Named for its narrow head and sharp, bird-like beak, Hawksbills can reach into cracks and crevices of coral reefs looking for food. With a highly specialized diet, they feed almost exclusively on sponges. They are essential inhabitants of coral reefs. One turtle can consume over 1,000 pounds of sponge per year. Without them, sponges would overgrow the coral and suffocate them.
They are one of the smaller turtles, with adults weighing between 100 and 200 pounds, reaching 2 to 3 feet in length. On average, they nest 4 times per season at 2 week intervals and lay around 140 eggs per nest. Hawksbills are considered Critically Endangered around the world by the IUCN Red List. Japan imported an estimated 2 million turtles between 1950 and 1992. Thankfully the international trade of their shells is now illegal.
“Try to be like the turtle at ease in your own shell.”