Seal Sands

Working with industry and conservation groups, we support this project that has enabled seals to return to the River Tees, improving the marine environment and redefining the area as a destination for local people and tourists.

Harbour seals

Set in an industrial landscape, Seal Sands may seem an unlikely setting for an environmental and conservation success story. However, Teesmouth is the only known estuary in north-west Europe where seals have re-colonised an industrialised estuary as a direct result of environmental improvements.

The re-emergence of the harbour seals is a shining example of how industry and nature can thrive side by side.”

Gary Thompson, Asset Manager

Seals have lived at the mouth of the River Tees for hundreds of years, but the colony dramatically declined after the mid-1800s, following intensive industrialisation and the resulting pollution and loss of habitats. By the 1930s, an extensive survey failed to record a single seal.

Following a concerted effort by industry, regulators, conservationists and The Crown Estate to clean up the River Tees, the seal population has seen remarkable growth in recent decades. Both harbour seals and grey seals are now permanent residents in the estuary, with numbers of both species increasing steadily over the past 15 years. 2015 saw 114 harbour seals and 82 grey seals enjoying the river. 

The Crown Estate supports the monitoring of the seal colony at Seal Sands, conducted by the Industry Nature Conservation Association and local volunteers.

Ian Bond, Ecologist at the Industry Nature Conservation Association, said: “In recent years the seal colony at Teesmouth has grown in size and become a significant local tourist attraction. The generous support by The Crown Estate has been vital in enabling the continued monitoring of the growth and health of the colony and in checking that any disturbance by the growing number of visitors is minimised.”

Gary Thompson, Asset Manager at The Crown Estate, commented: “We congratulate Teesmouth based industries, many of whom are tenants of The Crown Estate, for their commitment to environmental improvement and conservation. The re-emergence of the harbour seals is a shining example of how industry and nature can thrive side by side.”

Further information

Industry Nature Conservation Association