Dozens of dead seahorses have washed up in eastern Victoria this week, caused by flood water entering the coastal lagoons.
The mass casualty of seahorses near Eagle Point in east Gippsland was likely caused by changes in the salinity levels in the local lake system due to flood water disturbing the natural environment, experts say.
One witness said she counted 36 dead seahorses in one location alone.
Despite the significant number of dead marine species, experts say it isn't unusual.
Port Stephens Fisheries Institute senior research scientist Doctor David Harasti explained the pot belly seahorse, which is the common species found across Victoria, does not "tolerate freshwater very well."
"As tragic as these events are, unfortunately freshwater flooding is a natural occurrence that can have devastating effects on marine life," Dr Harasti said.
Even slight changes to the salinity levels in coastal lakes can have "devastating effects on seahorse populations."
The event comes after the Bureau of Meteorology yesterday announced a La Nina weather pattern, which increases the possibility of flash flooding for eastern Australia.
The Mitchell River in East Gippsland reached the major flood level earlier in November, and significant flooding was also recorded in other local catchments. The region is on flood watch again this weekend, with totals of up to 100 millilitres forecast in some local catchments.
Dr Harasti said if residents find a seahorse that is alive and washed ashore, the best thing to do is contact a local aquarium.
Seahorses otherwise 'going gangbusters'
Victorian Fisheries Authority (VFA) chief executive Travis Dowling said although an event like this is distressing, the overall health of the Gippsland lakes is "going gangbusters."
"Please don't be discouraged by a minor death of seahorses," he said.
He said the seahorse deaths were "highly likely to be a natural event" and is something that happens fairly regularly.
Mr Dowling said that although there is no current investigation, the VFA has been monitoring the health of the lakes and fish species throughout the week.
© ABC 2021
13:12 AEDT Goondiwindi's 65-year-old levee has once again saved homes from major flooding, but the town is now surrounded by water and there are fears some rural communities could cut off for days, if not weeks.