There are two species of seal found in the UK and both can be seen off the Sunderland coast. Grey seals are the larger of the two and have a flat, elongated nose and parallel nostrils. Common seals have a more rounded head and v-shaped nostrils.

There is a breeding colony of common seals just down the coast at Seal Sands on the mouth of the River Tees. Common seals are known to swim into rivers to hunt and have often been spotted upstream on the River Wear.

Grey Seal

Grey Seal

Common Seal

Common Seal


Cetaceans simply refers to a diverse range of mammals that includes dolphins, whales and porpoises. Some 30 species have been recorded in waters off the UK, but you are most likely to spot the harbour porpoise, bottlenose dolphin or white beaked dolphin off the clifftop paths along the Sunderland coast. Minke, humpback and killer whale have also all been spotted off our coast.


The Eurasian otter can be found in standing and running waters near the coast and further up river.

They have a diverse diet which consists primarily of the most available fish species but including seasonal exploitation of amphibians at breeding ponds, water birds, water voles and rabbits. Crustaceans are taken including crayfish in fresh water and crabs in coastal waters.

In the early 1960s, otters were on the verge of extinction due to river pollution, habitat loss and hunting. Now with full legal protection, cleaner rivers and managed habitat otters are returning to the region, including coastal areas.


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