Hundreds of strange and colourful sea critters washed up on different Australian beaches, perplexing experts.
The stranded seadragons have been discovered on beaches in Cronulla, Malabar, and the Central Coast of New South Wales.
Following weeks of record rains, photographs of an increased number of dead marine fish have circulated.
Since then, experts have voiced their dissatisfaction and proposed explanations as to why the number of wash-ups has risen to ten times the usual.
Betty Ratcliffe, a beachgoer, told The Sydney Morning Herald that she found seven seadragons in a week.
“The first one I found had just died; it was so vivid, with orange, yellow, and purple,” she explained. I kept finding more and more over the next few days.”
According to Dr David Booth, a professor of marine ecology at the University of Technology Sydney, around 20 seadragons have been discovered on Sydney beaches in the last two weeks.
While handling seadragon bodies is unlawful, many who have discovered the beached marine animals have informed Dr. Booth.
Because many of the animals have yet to be reported, the professor believes there are more than 50 of them.
He stated, ” “Only one has ever washed up on the shore. ‘My gosh, what’s going on?’ I thought. I’m guessing it’s around ten times the average wash-up rate.”
Dr. Booth described weedy seadragons as “tough little devils” because of their capacity to survive around 10 metres below the surface as “homebodies” that cling to kelp in strong currents, travelling no more than 20 to 50 metres from their patch during their lives.
The quantity of seadragons washed up has grown, according to Dr. Booth, as a result of a “combination of shocking weather, toxins washed into the ocean, and large surf.”
The lecturer emphasised the contaminants that have been churned up to the point that storms have impacted more than just the top three metres of water.
While weedy seadragons were downgraded from ‘near threatened’ to ‘least concern’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of Threatened Species in 2017, there has been a drop in sightings in recent years.
“There used to be seven to eight you’d see on a dive at Kurnell, Botany Bay; today there’s two to three,” Dr Booth reminisced.
The native kelp habitats of seadragons are likewise threatened by climate change.
Dr. Booth emphasised the need of keeping track of washed-up seadragons, especially as this “kind of storm” becomes more common.