Home » River Life » Seal and Porpoise Watching around the Isle of Dogs

Seal and Porpoise Watching around the Isle of Dogs



Over the last 400 years, there have been many reports of marine mammals coming up the Thames. Unfortunately in less enlightened times they were often attacked and killed.
A recent visit of a survey vessel to Wapping offers the intriguing suggestion that porpoises and other marine mammals are far more common in the Thames than people suspect. The RV Song of the Whale is 21 metre long vessel with specialised listening and recording equipment which recently spent several days checking numbers of the population of porpoises in the river’s tidal stretch.


Research into porpoises in the Thames is being undertaken by Marine Conservation Research International (MCR) in partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and local interest groups.

A visit to the Marine Conservation Research website gives plenty of information about the study and other information about mammal species in the tidal Thames.
One section of particular interest was related to public sightings, the  ZSL has been collecting public sightings in the Thames of marine mammals since 2004. In that time they have registered 92 harbour seals, 377 grey seals, 231 harbour porpoises and 11 dolphins in the Thames Estuary.


Sightings between 2012 – 2014

According to their map, looking around the Isle of Dogs, there seem to be a large number of seal sightings but also a smaller number of porpoises and dolphins. These sightings are not just in the river but in the docks as well. But as many people who live on the Island know, we have a resident seal called Sammy that lives at Billingsgate Fish market who is often seen around the docks.


Sammy ( the local Seal celebrity )

In the past two weeks, I have had sightings of seals on the Blackwall and Limehouse stretches which suggests that there are far more seals than we think around the Isle of Dogs or our friend from Billingsgate market gets around the Island more than we suspect.

Hopefully the survey will give us a clearer picture of the marine mammal population and confirm that the Thames is attracting more marine mammals further up the river.

If you have any sightings, add them to the ZSL public sightings here .



  1. Andrew Parnell says:

    Hello. After our guided walk on the Isle of Dogs on Saturday 12 November finishing at Livingstone Place E14 we saw what I’m told were harbour porpoises in the river. I took a brief video on my phone which I can send you if you wish. Andrew Parnell

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