THERE is a population boom happening on the backwaters along the north Essex coast.

What started a as a small colony of seals in the 1970s and 80s, has steadily grown to a healthy 400.

And the public has a chance to see the animals thanks to a seal watching company which has also enjoyed its own boom.

Christian Zemann started his seal-watching company three years ago.

As business has grown, Christian has bought more boats and now carries out three seal-watching trips a day.

Christian, 38, a father-of-two, said the trips not only bring joy to the visitors but help to raise awareness of the eco-culture and wildlife habitat.

The trips set off from Harwich taking visitors to the backwaters at Hamford Water Nature Reserve where the grey seals are resting on the mudbanks.

The boats travel slowly along the backwaters and stop a distance away from the seals so the animals are not injured or disturbed.

Christian said: “Both adults and children enjoy it, they love seeing the seals.

“We also have pre-recorded material about all the key information but people don’t get bombarded with information.

“We don’t allow people to scream or wave at the seals, just to take pictures. We aim to not disturb any seals and we treat them with respect.”

Christian said the Hamford waters are the perfect habitat for the seals because the area has a series of tidal creeks and these offer shelter and protection for the seals from water storms.

The most well-known seals in the area are the grey seals, which rest during the day and hunt during the night, eating a wide variety of fish, crustaceans and cephalopods.

The seals have an orange tinge which is due to the iron oxide in coastal mud but the rusty colouring is harmless.

In addition to seals, a variety of birds can be seen including the pintail, ringed plover, curlew, dunlincan, sandpipers, gannets and arctic skuas.

Christian said: “The Essex Wildlife Trust looks after the water and the whole of the river is cleaner than in the 1970s.

“Since the 80s the water quality has improved so from five seals back then, there are hundreds now.

“They are slowly growing, and they are a healthy breeding population. Their life expectancy is 30 years.”

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