Seal Hitches A Ride at Putney Town Rowing Club

Climbs aboard a boat near the club's ramp close to Chiswick Bridge



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Rowers from Barnes Bridge Ladies Rowing Club and the Putney Town Rowing Club were treated to a surprise visit by a seal who popped on board this Thursday afternoon (23 August).

The seal hopped up onto a quad near the bank by Chiswick Bridge and remained there for several minutes.

One of the rowers from the Putney Town club told us that they have been seeing an increasing number of seals in the last year fishing in the stretch of river between Chiswick and Brentford and they believe this signifies that the water is getting cleaner.

Dubbed “biologically dead” by the Natural History Museum in 1957, the Thames Estuary’s growing population of seals suggests a remarkable comeback for the biodiversity of the area. There are currently around 3,500 seals living in the Thames Estuary, leading to sightings of the charismatic marine animals further up the river.

In the short term, the lack of rainfall in recent months means less sewage has been released into the Thames. This may be encouraging seals such as this one to look for fish further into the tidal areas of the river.

The Thames Tideway Tunnel will divert sewage and rainwater away from tidal areas, and is expected to open in 2023. It is hoped this will go further to improve ecological conditions.

Last month, Julia Day filmed a seal fishing between Putney Bridge and the railway bridge.ZSL has mapped all reported marine sightings in the Thames this year, and a large number of them have been in West London’s riverside.

Wildlife experts warn that humans should enjoy seal sightings from a distance. Seals can become very stressed when approached, which uses up valuable energy resources. They also carry diseases which may be harmful to humans.

Though it has been on the rise, the seals are still vulnerable to a number of threats, such as plastic pollution. Seal hunting was made illegal in the 1970s, which led to a great recovery in their numbers. However, the Thames Estuary seals are threatened by construction projects such as one in Kent that planned to dredge up Goodwin Sands, a habitat for many seals.

August 29, 2018

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