At EPC-UK, we consider it a great privilege for our Bramble Island site in Essex to play host to a growing colony of common seals as well as a smaller number of grey seals who have been resident on our banks since the 1980s.
Situated on Hamford Water – an area within the Thames Estuary, the banks of Bramble Island have been chosen as home by the seals themselves, we believe, due to the site’s shallow backwaters, which help the area to remain free from human intrusion.
Since the seals’ arrival, we’ve been committed to ensuring that our presence in the area does not inhibit their natural activities as we endeavour to give them the space and seclusion they need. Adhering to informed animal welfare guidance, we keep a significant physical distance from the seal colony, as we respectfully understand that interaction would be counterproductive to the animals’ welfare.
How we help
By leaving the seals to congregate on the natural, predator free banks at Bramble Island they can lie with their backs to the sea, survey their surroundings and notify the rest of the population of any potential threats. The seals are of course predatory themselves and need to consume between 4 and 6 percent of their body weight in food per day. Our evidence indicates that they source all their sustenance and nutrients from our land’s local backwaters and that stocks are plentiful enough to support the ample 300 seal population. We consider such an abundance of food to be a positive reflection of the natural health of our local environment.
We respect just how important preventing human interaction with the seals is, so use our state-of-the-art technologies to monitor their wellbeing undetected. Non-intrusive drone surveillance enables us to count numbers and ensure the animals’ living environment continues to be safe.
On several occasions, we’ve been fortunate enough to observe at a distance, the seals charging up the Oakley Creek where groups help one another to chase shoals of fish up the narrowing water stream to make hunting easy pickings.
Our technical approach to monitoring continues to reward us with good news, as our drone surveillance shows that the population is currently thriving. In the mid 1980s there were around 6 common seals seen in the Bramble Island vicinity, whereas now, we have recorded up to 300 at peak basking times – in addition to the 12 grey seals whose presence we regularly document along the shoreline.
Last year around 30 common pups were born by the end of the summer, with a further two new grey pups in November. All being well, we’ll be able to provide a positive update of birth numbers later in the autumn. Until then, we’ll continue keeping our ‘physical’ distance and safely monitoring the colony using digitised means, from the air.