An object seen floating on the water off Sidmouth beach on Saturday morning (January 1), prompted a search by Beer Coastguard Rescue Team.
The team searched the shoreline from the top of Salcombe Hill but stood down after nothing was found.
It is thought a member of public reporting the object could have spotted a seal in the distance, coastguards said.
A Beer Coastguard Rescue Team spokesperson said: “A member of the public reported an object floating about 200m off shore just outside the surf
“On arrival we did a visual search from the shore and from the top of Salcombe Hill.
“We did briefly see what we thought was a seal, and lots of seagulls on the water, but nothing else was seen.
“It is possible the person saw the seal, but not able to make out what it was due to the distance off shore.
“With nothing else seen we were stood down and returned to station.”