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Germany's seal population up 17 percent after coronavirus empties beaches

Germany's seal population up 17 percent after coronavirus empties beaches

Germany's seal population up 17 percent after coronavirus empties beaches

Coronavirus restrictions may have forced people in Germany to stay home, but that seems to have been a blessing for the country's grey seal population, which has been flourishing ever since the beaches were cleared this spring.

Number of grey seals on the Wadden Sea increase

According to a report by the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat (CWSS), a total of 7.649 grey seals were counted on the Wadden Sea this spring – an increase of 17% compared to last year. The Wadden Sea is a stretch of intertidal flats in southeastern part of the North Sea, that covers parts of the German, Dutch and Danish coastlines, and is a popular tourist destination. 

Between March and May, however, many beaches were off-limits as restrictions were put in place to curb the spread of coronavirus in Germany and the Netherlands. Experts believe that seals may have benefited from the sudden reduction in visitors to the beaches - allowing them to increase their numbers free from disturbances. 

However, this is yet to be confirmed: “At the moment, we cannot say for certain that reduced human activities of the past months, for example the lack of tourists at the beaches, are responsible for the survey results,” said Sascha Klöpper, Deputy Executive Secretary of the CWSS, adding that the group needed to conduct a more in-depth research to determine the impact of the pandemic-related restrictions.

Seal population up 300 percent in 12 years

Whatever the reasons may be, what is certain is that the grey seal population has been continuously increasing since 2008, when environmentalists first began counting seals. The latest report found that numbers appear to have tripled over the last 12 years.

This is good news for the biodiversity of the area, since grey seals – the largest predators in the Wadden sea – went extinct in the region centuries ago, as a result of excessive hunting. It was only in the latter part of the 20th century that the species travelled from UK waters to reclaim the area. These latest figures suggest that nature's balance is gradually being restored. 

Naina Pottamkulam

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Naina Pottamkulam

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