Seahorses and sharks are 'thriving' in the River Thames, but threatened by climate change

River Thames

Seahorses and sharks are thriving in the River Thames but climate change and pollution is a threat to wildlife, a new report has said.

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL)'s State of the Thames report - published on Tuesday - said the river is now a rich and varied home for wildlife, sixty years after parts of the Thames were declared "biologically dead" due to pollution.

But an average rise in water temperatures of almost 0.2C a year - due to climate change and pollution - poses a threat to the health of the river, the report said. It added there had also been a concerning rise in the water level of the river.

Seals are also thriving in the Thames Estuary. But climate change and pollution poses a threat to the river's wildlife. Credit: PA

A juvenile short-snouted seahorse was found in the river in Greenwich in 2017, which ZSL says is a positive sign the Thames's ecosystem is recovering.

A smooth hound shark was also seen by ZSL researchers, who said the river is an important breeding ground and nursery habitat for fish.

The Thames once again provides a rich and varied habitat to "an abundance of wildlife" and benefits "many people", the report said.

The State of the Thames researchers - who were funded by the Royal Bank of Canada - said water quality in the Thames had improved in recent years, thanks to improved sewage treatment works that have reduced harmful pollutants entering the water.

17,770 single-use plastic bottles were removed at sites along the Thames between 2016 and 2020, according to the report. Almost half of which were water bottles.

Eels are among the wildlife resident in the River Thames Credit: ZSL/PA

Alison Debney, ZSL conservation programme lead for wetland ecosystem recovery, said: “The Thames estuary [is] critically important in our fight to mitigate climate change and build a strong and resilient future for nature and people."