The Emergency Services launched a large scale search and rescue operation earlier this afternoon after reports of a body floating in the River Itchen near the Northam Bridge.
A police helicopter, two ambulances and the coastguard were called to the scene after a member of the public reported the incident to the police at around 1pm this afternoon. However, the operation was soon scaled back after it emerged that what was initially thought to be a body was in fact a seal swimming in the river.
A spokesman for Hampshire Police told the Daily Echo:
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.
Two police vehicles were reportedly seen parked on nearby Empress Road, while an inflatable vessel was also seen near the water. An eyewitness told the Echo that he had also seen two ambulances and a police helicopter flying overhead.
The inside lane of the carriageway heading toward Southampton was sealed off during the operation, which combined with motorists in the other lanes slowing down to see what was happening caused long queues and delays.