Increasing numbers of seals spotted on Belgian coast
The number of seals on the Belgian coast is increasing rapidly, according to the latest figures from the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences and a report by the Flemish association Natuurpunt.
The coast is home to both common and grey seal populations, with common seal pups resting on the beaches during the summer and grey seal pups born in England arriving in the winter.
Populations have been increasing in recent years, according to the Institute's aerial observations. In 2017, one seal was spotted every 100,000 nautical miles; five years later, this figure had increased ninefold. In 2022, the institute spotted 20 and 40 seals in March and October respectively - both monthly highs since records began.
In 2022, 54 seals were found stranded on shore, including 10 common seals and 18 grey seals. Many had been decapitated, mainly due to entanglement in fishing nets.
Seals are found not only on the coast but also further inland. Several have been spotted on the river Scheldt because of its direct connection to the sea. Typically, the animals manage to return to the sea on their own.
While on land, seals are mainly looking for rest. Members of the public are advised to leave any seals they come across on the beach to rest and to keep a distance of at least 30 metres. Dog owners are also asked to keep their pets on a lead.
#FlandersNewsService | A seal on the Belgian coast in Ostend © BELGA PHOTO KURT DESPLENTER