Volunteer as a seal spotter with us this summer

We're seeking seal spotters to volunteer at the Tees Barrage, as part of an ecology survey looking at the impact of the seals on fish stocks in the River Tees between June and October 2021.

Grey seal lying in shallow water Grey seal

Seals have once again become a regular sight on the River Tees, with both grey seals and harbour seals travelling up from Teesmouth. The seal population disappeared from the area for more than 100 years due to pollution and hunting, but started to return in the 1980s following improvements in water quality.

Numbers have been slowly increasing in recent years and its estimated there are over 200 individual seals who now frequent the river.

No experience required

Volunteers will play an important role in helping our experts and those from the Industries Nature Conservation Association (INCA) to more accurately record the behaviour and numbers of one of Britain’s best loved animals.

During a series of one hour-surveys at high tide, volunteers will record the numbers of seals spotted and their feeding habits. Surveys will be carried out from dry land, using binoculars.

Caitlin Hayman, our heritage and environment specialist, is coordinating the seal survey. She explained, “Plenty of enthusiasm and a keen eye are the only experience or prior knowledge required. 

“To get the most from this experience and to help achieve consistent data, we’re looking for volunteers who can carry out ten different one-hour surveys ideally at a variety of times - early morning, middle of the day and evening.”

She added, “This year we are surveying in two locations, at Tees Barrage and at Newport Bridge about 1.5km downstream. This will help to get a better picture of feeding habits along the river.

“Volunteers will be helping support valuable work that will give us a much better understanding of seal behaviour in and around the Tees Barrage. This is a great opportunity to get out in the fresh air this summer and learn about these amazing animals.”

Understanding seal behaviour

Jonny Hart-Woods, our senior ecologist explained, “This survey is part of a programme of activity we’re undertaking with INCA to help us better understand seal behaviour at the Tees Barrage and how this impacts on fish trying to migrate upstream.

“The results will give a more accurate picture of what’s happening between the seals and fish at this time of year on this section of the River Tees and inform methods we can trial to encourage fish to follow routes across the Barrage that will reduce opportunities for predation.”