THE BODY of a woman was found in the sea off the coast of Portland.

Emergency services were notified yesterday afternoon by a passing boat in the area.

The vessel, called Phoenix, had been sailing on the eastern side of the island at the time of the discovery.

Those on board the boat notified the coastguard at around 3.25pm after seeing something in the water.

The all weather lifeboat Ernest and Mabel was launched to recover the woman's body.

The coroner has been notified and formal identification will take place. The incident is not being treated as suspicious.

Eyewitnesses spotted Dorset Police at Weymouth Harbour as the lifeboat launched.

The lifeboat spent half an hour in the area off Portland as the body was being recovered.

Ernest and Mabel then docked at Portland Marina before returning to Weymouth Harbour at around 6pm.

A spokesman for the South West Ambulance confirmed it had attended and confirmed the death.

Police later confirmed the body had been found in the water off Portland Bill.

Portland is known for having a strong tidal race in the area, where a fast moving tide passes through a constriction resulting in irregular steep standing waves.

The Shambles Bank, made of sand and gravel is also near to The Race. Due to its shallow nature, the Shambles also presents a hazard to those sailing in the area.

A spokesman for Dorset Police said: "Police were called by the RNLI Coastguard at 3.27pm on Friday, April 1 to reports of a woman’s body being found in the water off Portland Bill.

"The body has been recovered from the water and the coroner has been notified.

"At this time it is not being treated as suspicious."

Cllr Rod Wild, Mayor of Portland, expressed his condolences to those concerned.

He said: "It's always very sad to hear. There are a lot of missing people. It could be someone from a ship.

"Whoever it is I hope they manage to identify the body as soon as possible.

"My thoughts are with the relatives."