Published: 05:00, 29 November 2021
| Updated: 07:50, 29 November 2021
Our coastline is home to a vast array of stunning wildlife, but sadly our actions may be causing many of the county's animals to disappear.
One of those species affected are seals, and experts have revealed what the people of Kent can do to protect the creatures and where to spot them.
The Thames estuary is home to two types of seals, one is the grey seal and can be seen lying on beaches waiting for their food to go down.
The other, and smaller of the two, are common seals, which are also known as harbour seals.
However, despite their name they are less common than grey seals.
The harbour seal is most likely to be seen around Kent due to our shallow seas and estuaries and grey seals can be seen resting at off-shore sandbanks like the Goodwin Sands and sandbanks of Margate.
As Britain's biggest carnivores, the mammals have a varied diet, however it mostly consists of fish and shellfish like crustaceans.
Because of this, Kent's chalk reefs and range of coastal habitats are great hunting spots.
You may spot a lone seal hunting every now and then, but for the best sightings it is suggested that you visit Pegwell and Sandwich Nature Reserve where people can see them from land.
Seals often rest on land and during the winter, when they moult their fur. They stay on land longer to protect themselves from the cold water temperatures.
Although pupping season for harbour seals is around June and July, grey seal pupping season is around November, so, if you're lucky, you may spot their white fluffy pups this winter.
However, although our waterways are becoming cleaner, over fishing and plastic pollution are causing problems for the marine mammals.
It is estimated that this year the Thames estuary is home to 2,866 grey and 797 harbour seals according to Zoological Society of London.
Although this shows that the area is a key ecological hotspot for these species there has been a decline in numbers compared to the number of seals found in 2019.
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact reason for the lower result, however, Mark Stevens, the founder of the British Divers Marine Life Rescue, believes the consequences of human actions might be why.
Mark, from Rainham, has been rescuing marine animals since the charity was founded in 1988 and has seen a rise in the amount of those in need.
He said:"The numbers of seals we rescue is rising year on year, but that might just be because people now know who to call if they see a seal in difficulty.
"Populations are now recovering from issues they faced in previous years, however, seals are now in competition for food.
"Some pups don't know how to hunt and are still dependent on their mothers."
Mark has seen a rise in the number of underweight and malnourished pups he and the charity have rescued.
He explained: "With fish populations so low it is important that seals eat at every chance they get.
"However, because there are so little in the sea for the seals to catch, if they miss one, it isn't as simple as just waiting for the next one to swim by."
The British Divers Marine Life Rescue has also seen a rise in the number of seals with mouth injuries, it is believed this is from the animals changing their diet.
Volunteers also rescue many seals stuck in fishing nets and beer can rings, which can choke them.
Mark finished: "The easiest thing the public can do is pick up rubbish.
"Fishing line, beer can loops, anything like that, it really helps, a great amount.
"If you see a seal in difficulty don't approach it, contact us, they are dangerous and can cause a lot of damage."
Sherece Thompson is a coast explorer intern for the Kent Wildlife Trust.
The 25-year-old from Margate works with partnership organisations to create databases of Kent's marine life.
She said: "Kent is a great place to spot seals, Pegwell and Sandwich Nature Reserve offers lots of vantage points to see the mammals from land.
"You can see them on the sandbanks all the time and there are even boat trips that allow you to get a little closer."
Although it is lovely to watch the seals in their natural habitat, Sherece emphasised the importance of keeping your distance from the animals.
She said: "If you see a seal on a beach keep your distance.
"If they are on land they are resting and getting close to them will cause them to panic and use their vital energy supplies.
"Just because they are on land doesn't mean they are injured or hurt, however, if you believe this is the case contact the British Divers Marine Life Rescue.
"When you go seal spotting take a good pair of binoculars and respect your surroundings.
"Give the seals space, they're inquisitive and may come closer to you but just enjoy them from afar."
If you would like to find our more about grey and harbour seals click here.
To support or find out more about The British Divers Marine Life Rescue click here.