An area of England’s Thames River that was once declared biologically dead is coming back to life. A recent count of the seal population in the Thames Estuary showed that this is enough marine life to support a larger group of seals than previously thought. Scientists and volunteers participated in the most comprehensive seal count to date. Counters used land, sea and air methods to collect data on the marine mammal. Over 700 seals were found, with almost two thirds being harbor seals and the rest grey seals.
The Zoological Society of London conducted the count and are very pleased the results. Not only were more seals counted than expected, but they found large colonies of seals huddled together in areas that were previously unreachable in counts, out of access from pedestrians or boats.
Joanna Barker, one of the scientists with the Zoological Society, said, “It’s a really good indicator because the seals are the top predators in the marine food chain, and it shows that the marine environment is relatively good and is producing enough food for the seals to eat.”
The industrial revolution laid waste to the Thames River, until it was declared biologically dead in the in 1950’s by the British government. Pressure from Environmentalists and policy efforts from the Environmental Agency resulted in aggressive clean up and bans on dumping waste into the river. Slowly, with the help of clean up volunteers and conservationists, England was able to restore the river into a safe and beautiful environment. The agency was awarded the 2010 Theiss International River Foundation Award for the restoration.
The Zoological Society continues efforts to monitor marine life and urges anyone to record sightings. Any sightings can be helpful in learning how animals respond to threats and what sort of dangers they face.