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Business & Economy

New PD Ports South Gare collaboration to help Teesmouth seals

A dedicated seal hospital is set to open in the Tees region.

PD Ports has granted new charity Teesmouth Seal Conservation Trust (TSCT) a 30-year lease for the former lifeboat station at South Gare, Redcar.

The token £100-a-year lease will see the unused lifeboat building repurposed to create the Teesmouth Seal Rescue and Coastal Conservation Centre – a first in the region.

The charity has been set up specifically to provide help for the important population of seals living in and around the Tees Estuary, providing care and welfare work to sick, orphaned, and injured seals with help from public donations, grants, and contributions from industry.

TSCT expects its members could be called upon to rehabilitate as many as 30 local seals a year.

David Newell, chairman of TSCT, said: “The main purpose of the building will be as a seal hospital to provide rehabilitation for seals, often pups, that have been found in distress.

“We have the expertise and connections to the wider seal rescue community to allow us to do this successfully. Once healthy, the seals will be released back into the Tees Estuary.

“We are enormously grateful for all the help that we have received so far and for this important collaboration with PD Ports.

“We are confident that public and industry support for our crucial work will continue to grow.”

David Newell, chair of the Teesmouth Seal Conservation Trust, with PD Ports chief executive officer Frans Calje in front of the new seal hospital site

The return of harbour seals to the Tees in the 1980s was hailed as a great environmental success story after they became extinct there through the worst years of river pollution. Today, the population is almost 200 strong with 36 pups being born in 2022.

Frans Calje, chief executive of PD Ports, said: “It is very pleasing to see the disused lifeboat station being repurposed to focus on seal and coastal conservation.

“It seems fitting to us at PD Ports that a building with such a history of coastal rescue should now have a future in rescuing marine animals.

“As a company operating in such an environmentally sensitive area, we are excited to be providing support for this work through the lease of the old lifeboat station on our private land at the South Gare breakwater, to Teesmouth Seal Conservation Trust.”

TSCT was created with help from Teesside Environmental Trust (TET) after they received a presentation from seal enthusiast, Daniel Fox, who highlighted problems with the Teesmouth seals.

David Kitchen, TET chairman, said: “This new charity has, as its core mission, the care of the Teesmouth seals and will become an important organisation giving help to seals close to their point of need. I am pleased to see that Daniel now is one of its founding trustees.”

Teesmouth and the surrounding coastline boasts one of the highest levels of inshore wildlife protection anywhere in the UK.

Vicky Ward, project manager for the Tees Estuary Recovering Nature (TERN) project at Natural England, the Government body that ensures this protection is enforced, said: “The exciting news of a new seal hospital on the Tees, spearheaded by the Teesmouth Seal Conservation Trust, is a brilliant development for our region, and for our cherished common (harbour) seals and the growing population of grey seals in the Tees Estuary.

“As a listed feature of the Teesmouth and Cleveland Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest, the local seal colony faces challenges from the impacts of both climate change and disturbance by humans.

“The dedicated seal hospital will play a key role in safeguarding our local seals.

“The TERN project is delighted to support both the trust and the new seal hospital in helping our beloved local seals thrive.”

Pictured: David Newell, chair of the Teesmouth Seal Conservation Trust, left, with PD Ports chief executive officer Frans Calje, in front of the new seal hospital site