The secrets of the Solent seal population have been revealed by a new aerial survey.
Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust has discovered that at least 49 harbour seals – including 11 pups – and seven grey seals live in the Solent.
The areas surveyed were Langstone Harbour, Chichester Harbour, Portsmouth Harbour, Ryde sand banks, Beaulieu and Newtown Creek.
The wildlife trust has been counting seals since 1994, when only three harbour seals were found. The count takes place in August when the seals moult and spend more time ashore. The trust worked with Dean and Reddyhoff’s Haslar Marina on the project, and marina manager Ben Lippiett said: ‘Our berth-holders have enjoyed seeing seals around the Solent this year, and we are delighted to have been able to help the Wildlife Trust with this important conservation work.’
Rayner Piper, Secrets of the Solent project manager at Hampshire and Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust said: ‘Our huge thanks to marina operator Dean and Reddyhoff for helping make the survey happen and to pilot Steve Tyas. We now know 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’re looking forward to next year’s survey, which we hope will show more population growth.’
The survey was made possible thanks to fundraising by Haslar Marina berth holders and staff, which paid for the flight. In addition, more than £1,000 was given to the trust for wildlife and environmental work.