Secret lives of our local seals revealed

The secrets of the local Solent seal population have been revealed by a new aerial survey by the Wildlife Trust, thanks to Dean & Reddyhoff

The first seal survey was back in 1994, when just 3 harbour seals were recorded. The Wildlife Trust and partners at Chichester and Langstone Harbour Authorities aim to repeat the aerial survey each August when the seals moult.

This year’s survey found that a minimum of 49 harbour seals - including 11 pups - and 7 grey seals are currently resident in the Solent. The areas surveyed were Langstone Harbour, Chichester Harbour, Portsmouth Harbour, Ryde sand banks, Beaulieu and Newtown Creek.

The survey was made possible thanks to Dean & Reddyhoff, who run marinas in Hampshire, Isle of Wight and Dorset. They funded the flight and sourced a plane and pilot. They have also raised an additional £1077 for local marine wildlife work through their berth holders party and Big Green Cycle Ride events.

The survey forms part of the Wildlife Trust’s developing Secrets of the Solent project, which aims to protect and celebrate marine wildlife and heritage of the Solent, with the generous support of the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Cheque presentation from Dean & Reddyhoff

Rayner Piper, Secrets of the Solent Project Manager at Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: “Our huge thanks to marina operator Dean & Reddyhoff for helping make the survey happen and to pilot Steve Tyas. We would also like to acknowledge the help and support of Chichester Harbour Conservancy and Langstone Harbour Authority for contributing their findings to the survey.

“We know now that our Solent seals seem to be slowly increasing in numbers, which is great news as elsewhere in the UK, harbour seal populations are in steep decline. We are looking forward to next year’s survey which we hope will include Newtown Creek, an area where a number of seals have been reported this year.”

About Solent seals

The Solent harbour seal population is one of the least understood in the country, despite annual surveys and the gathering of ecological data through a previous telemetry study undertaken by HIWWT in collaboration with Chichester Harbour Authority and the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU).

We will continue to focus on gathering data on the Solent’s harbour seal population to inform the conservation and management of this priority species. We hope to shed light on why our local population is increasing whilst elsewhere in the UK harbour seal populations are in decline.