Anyone walking along the seafront at Deal on a windy day at low tide cannot fail to notice the foamy white line of waves crashing onto the Goodwins four miles away.
The Sands are an acknowledged sea defence, absorbing the waves’ energy as they pound in from the North and the South
Millions of pounds are spent each year on ensuring that the four mile stretch of beach from North Deal to Kingsdown stays where it should. However, longshore drift, the harbour arms at Dover and Folkestone and (some say) the rifle range at Kingsdown all conspire to rob us of our vulnerable coastline. Climate change and rising sea levels pose a very real threat to the communities along the shore and if the Goodwins were to disappear under the waves for ever, the consequences of those huge waves hitting our coastline must not be underestimated.
According to the Zoological Society of London 2019 seal survey, 450 grey and 180 harbour seals were seen resting on the Goodwin Sands.
At low tide they haul out and rest at Goodwin Knoll on North Calliper and at Kellett Gut and Trinity Bay on South Calliper.
Seals vary their haul out sites quite frequently so not all of them will be found on the Sands all year round.
Only the harbour seals actually breed on the Sands, as the grey seals prefer to travel to Norfolk and Lincolnshire where the beaches make more comfortable nursery grounds.
Harbour seal pups can swim from just a few hours old so are able to survive in the waters around the Goodwins from soon after birth, waiting till they dry out at low tide before clambering ashore to rest.
The waters around the Goodwins make excellent foraging grounds for the seal colony, much to the displeasure of some local fishermen. Seals are protected under the Annex II Habitats Directive but are not a protected feature within the Marine Conservation Zone.
As their name suggests, sand eels live in the sand and form an integral part of the food web. Both the micro organisms that live in the sand and the sand eels provide food for the fish that spawn and breed in the waters around the Goodwins, such as herring and Dover sole. Many of these fish make a tasty meal for the seals – in fact many of the Deal fishermen refer to them as ‘water rats’, such is their dislike of these predators.
Whelks are the current most popular catch of the day but lobsters and crabs happily make their homes in the numerous wrecks that litter the seabed.
Today, most of the fishermen belong to the inshore Thanet Fishing Fleet, working out of Ramsgate with only a few small fishing boats still operating off the beach at Deal.