AN EMERGENCY operation was launched after a body was spotted in the water - but turned out to be a seal.

A police helicopter, two ambulances and the coast guard were all mobilised as part of a huge operation by emergency services near Northam Bridge in Southampton.

A member of the public had reported to police that they had spotted a body in the water.

But that turned out to simply be an aquatic mammal.

A police spokesman said yesterday: “We were called just after 1pm today after reports that somebody had been spotted in the water at Northam Bridge.

"Since then another member of the public has said to us that they had seen a seal earlier in the day and we are standing down our search.”

The coastguard were also called to help with the operations.

Witnesses have also seen an inflatable being used near the water and two police cars parked in nearby Empress Road.

The inside lane of the inbound carriageway has been sealed off.

A 26-year-old motorist who was driving past said: “I saw two to three police cars, two ambulances and a helicopter flying overhead.

“Police were talking to a man at the side of the road. There were at least two other cars parked up too.”

The operation was scaled back once it was realised that 'the body' was not human but instead a seal enjoying a swim.

The incident caused traffic delays due to both the lane closure and drivers slowing down on the bridge trying to catch a glimpse of what was going on in the water.