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

Seal and Porpoise Watching around the Isle of Dogs Revisited

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One of the most remarkable stories of the last 60 years in London is the way the River Thames has recovered from being considered ‘biologically’ dead in 1950s to now being home to hundreds of species of fish and animals.

The Thames was declared biologically ‘dead’ by the Natural History Museum in the 50s  when its waters were considered devoid of oxygen and unable to sustain life. After the introduction of tough legislation in the late 20th century, the river has made such a comeback that it is estimated that 400 invertebrates and 125 species of fish, have returned to the murky waters.

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One of the delights of this turnaround is that we are seeing seals, dolphins, porpoises and the occasional whale further up the river.  Although the waters around the Isle of Dogs is considered a bit of a hot spot for sightings, it is more likely that you will see a seal and often you tend to suspect it might be Sammy the permanent resident at Billingsgate Market.

Last week, I was contacted by Andrew Parnell who provided some evidence of a more spectacular sighting. Andrew is a City of London guide who leads walks around the Island, one of the walks entitled Treasure Island: The Isle of Dogs’ Hidden Gems reveals some of the lesser known architectural gems of the Isle of Dogs.

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One a recent walk, Andrew was near Livingstone Place  when he and his group came across some marine ‘gems’ when he spotted a number of porpoises in the river. Andrew took a brief video on his phone and has kindly given permission for me to use some photographs taken from the footage.  

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In the video is at least three different porpoises which have been identified as harbour porpoises but there may have been more.

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It really is a remarkable sight to see porpoises this far up the river moving towards the centre of London. However it is unlikely they were ‘sightseeing’, quite often marine mammals follow their food for long distances.

On my frequent walks around the Island, I will looking at the river with renewed interest, hoping to spot more of our marine visitors.

Many thanks to Andrew for sharing his sighting and if you are interested in joining his walk around the Isle of Dogs, visit his website here 

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