RIGHT now, it’s Common Seal pupping season! Essex Wildlife Trust is calling for local people and visitors of Hamford Water National Nature Reserve (near Walton-on-the-Naze & Essex Wildlife Trust’s The Naze Visitor Centre) and other Common seal pupping sites, to help limit disturbance to the seals during this important breeding time.
The famous orange Seals are one of our most charismatic species living on the expansive saltmarsh channels of the Essex coast. After suffering population declines in 1988 and 2002 due to outbreaks of Phocine Distemper Virus (PDV), Common seal populations have since started to grow once again.
It’s the mudflats and sandbanks of the Thames Estuary and Greater Thames Estuary that are key ‘haul-out’ sites for seals to rest, moult and breed, including Hamford Water National Nature Reserve. They often feel very vulnerable during this time and can be easily disturbed.
So, to help them, Essex Wildlife Trust and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) are promoting simple ways we can all help protect these marine mammals during this exciting stage of their lives. A voluntary Marine Mammal Code of Conduct has been developed by The Greater Thames Seal Working Group and includes advice such as keeping a safe distance, travelling at a slow speed and limiting your time watching the seals.
“Many of us have a real affinity with marine mammals and wildlife encounters can stay with us forever,” Rachel Langley, Living Seas Coordinator at Essex Wildlife Trust, says. “By taking simple steps and raising awareness with others, we can all do our bit to safeguard these captivating creatures”.
Thea Cox, from international conservation charity ZSL – which conducts annual seal surveys across the Thames Estuary – says, “People may be surprised to learn that the Greater Thames Estuary is home to marine mammals such as harbour porpoises, harbour seals and grey seals. We hope the code of conduct raises awareness of their presence and provides practical tips on what to do if a seal or porpoise is spotted, helping users make the most of their wildlife encounters without compromising the well-being of its flippered residents.”