THE seal population at an industrial centre has grown to 100.

Efforts to clean up the Tees going back 30 years has lead to an increasing seal population at Teesmouth Harbour and this year 18 pups have been born in the Seal Sands area.

The population is being monitored thanks to a £25,000 grant from The Crown Estate, a property portfolio owned by the Crown which has land in the area.

Set amongst industrial towers and chemical factories, Seal Sands at first seems an unlikely setting for a conservation success story. However, Teesmouth is the only known estuary in north-west Europe where seals have re-colonised an industrialised estuary.

There were once 1,000 seals in the mudflats of the Tees but there were none living there at all by the 1930s. However seals returned to the wider area in the 1960s although it wasn’t until the mid-1980s that the first harbour seal pup in more than 100 years was spotted actually in the estuary.

Gary Thompson, coastal manager at The Crown Estate said: “We would like to congratulate Teesmouth based industries, many of whom are tenants of The Crown Estate, for their commitment to environmental improvement and conservation. The re-emergence of the harbour seals is a shining example of how industry and nature can thrive side by side”.

The Industry Nature Conservation Association (INCA) has been involved in monitoring the progress of the seal population. Bob Pailor, Director at INCA said: “After last year’s record season we are delighted the harbour seal population at Seal Sands continues to grow. This demonstrated that the River Tees is in good health and that environmental improvements are having a positive impact on wildlife.”