‘Anyone else smell fish?’: residents across Sydney and coastal NSW report strong salty odour

A salty smell has wafted over Sydney and coastal New South Wales, as residents who live kilometres from the coast reported a strong sea aroma on Friday morning.

On a drizzly morning ahead of forecast thunderstorms, residents from Sydney’s beaches to its inner suburbs and down to coastal towns like Thirroul have woken to the strong smell of petrichor – the smell of the soil or ground after rain – tinged with salt.

The bureau of meteorology has confirmed to Guardian Australia that strong easterly and south-easterly winds could be responsible for bringing the sea into noses across the city.

In a post on Reddit on Friday morning, now deleted, one Sydney resident asked: “Anyone else smell fish/boats outside?”

Will Jones, a marine biologist at Bondi’s Marine Discovery Centre, told Guardian Australia the source of the smell could be seaweed that had been raked up from the sand.

Bimal KC, a duty meteorologist for the bureau, said that winds blowing in off the sea could be the reason, combined with the smell of smoke from nearby hazard reduction burns.

“I can see a south-easterly wind along the coast at the moment,” he said. “At the moment, Sydney Olympic Park, Sydney Harbour, Sydney observatory, Bankstown, they are all reporting south-easterlies.

“That might be the reason. But there is also a lot of smoke going through the Sydney basin. It might be a little sea spray with the south-easterly. We generally will have a little bit of smoke in the the next few days due to these hazard reduction burns, so there might some different types of smells when the south-easterly kicks in.”

Jones said that councils could start burying seaweed instead of removing it, to both stop the smell and help the beach’s microorganisms, known as meiofauna, get a good meal.

The marine biologist said that mass removals of the seaweed from the beach harmed the food source of the organisms living in the sand.

“We care about the rainforests, we care about the Barrier Reef, but Sydney’s beaches have been systematically starved … Imagine going into a forest and removing all the leaf litter.”

“When seaweed comes in, little critters break it down. The nutrients go into the sand and that feeds that whole ecosystem.

“They could have a little patch of the beach where they bury seaweed, and have a place where beach worms and other creatures could survive – like a little park,” he said.