Sugar, the Hawksbill sea turtle, is roaming free again. After a brief stint in captivity to have a monitoring device attached to her shell, Sugar was released from the beach in front of the Four Seasons Resort in a ceremony Tuesday (July 22) attended by about 50 people. Minister of Agriculture Eric Evelyn was in attendance to say a few words before Sugar bolted to the sea, quickly scurrying past the excited onlookers and plunging into the clear waters. Sugar is the fourth Hawksbill to be tagged and released this year by the coalition of the Sea Turtle Conservancy, the Four Seasons Resort Nevis and the Nevis Turtle Group, and the 17 th total since 2006. The sea turtle research and conservation project has been conducted by the organizations since 2006 to study the migration patterns of critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles nesting along the Caribbean coast of Nevis in the West Indies. According to Lemuel Pemberton, president and founder of the Nevis Turtle Group, the study will reveal important information about the turtle’s migratory behavior, which will help both conservationists and natural resource managers to improve protection efforts for this endangered species. The Hawksbill is named for its narrow head and hawk-like beak. Adults can reach three feet in carapace (shell) length and can weigh between 101 pounds and 154 lbs pounds. Its narrow head and jaws shaped like a beak allow it to get food from crevices in coral reefs. They eat sponges, anemones, squid and shrimp, and typically are found around coastal reefs, rocky areas, estuaries and lagoons. The conservancy will be able to track Sugar for up to a year, according to Mr. Pemberton. Initially captured on Lover’s Beach in 2006 and tagged, she has been tracked in the past as far away as Nicaragua. Released this time, she had reached Newcastle Beach, six miles away from the release point, a day after gaining her freedom. Hawksbills nest every two to four years, between three to six times during the season, and almost always return to the same place. They may lay 160 eggs per nest, with an incubation period of 60 days before hatching. The greatest threat to the hawksbill sea turtle, according to Mr. Pemberton, is harvesting for their shells, often referred to as ‘tortoise shell,” still used to make hair ornaments, jewelry and decorative items. The satellite transmitter attached to each hawksbill sends signals to orbiting satellites each time the turtle surfaces to breath. Migration maps then show the turtle’s movements and locations. Once free from their shells and beach cover, hatchlings travel in the ocean for years, often floating in Gulf stream currents, where floating sargassum weed provides them food. After several years of floating around the Atlantic, they then head back to coastal waters such as Nevis. Research like that being carried out on Nevis will help to explain some of the remaining mysteries about their migratory practices and feeding grounds, where they are believed to remain throughout their lives, except during breeding season. However, the least amount of time sea turtles spend in any one place is on the nesting beach. More than 90 percent of their time is spent in the water – feeding, mating, migrating and maybe just having some fun. It is this period of their lives that little is known about them, and where the satellite tracking may provide researchers with important conservation information.