As what’s believed to be Florida’s worst Red Tide algae bloom in a decade continues to ravage beaches and wildlife, residents across Tampa Bay and Florida are planning to travel to beaches and stand, hand-in-hand, for 15 minutes to bring awareness to an issue they feel is not receiving the attention it deserves.
On Sunday at 10 a.m., the groups of people, organized by a Facebook page called Hands Along The Way, will travel to 30 different Florida beaches to send a message that they "do not, and will not, stand for our beautiful beaches, wildlife, homes and livelihoods to continuously be destroyed and impacted by the water released from Lake O(keechobee.)"
As of Friday, about 1,600 people planned to participate across 30 participating beaches, according to the Facebook page. Some of those included groups from Cocoa Beach, Pensacola and St. Augustine, as well as areas in southeast and southwest Florida.
Scheduled meeting places in the Tampa Bay area include Barefoot, Hernando County, Indian Rocks, Clearwater and St. Pete beaches, as well as Gulfport and John’s Pass. More information can be found on the Facebook page.
Red Tide blooms produce toxic chemicals that can kill fish and cause respiratory irritation for humans when released into the air. Blooms reported in southwest Florida have left beaches empty in recent weeks, with dead fish consistently washing onshore.
Hands Along The Way organizers believe not enough is being done to fix the issue.
"What if 5,000 or 10,000 of us linked hands one morning on the beaches from Coast to Coast? We’d be on every TV station in the country," according to a post on the group’s Facebook page. "Do you have 15 minutes to spare for our beaches and wildlife?"
Event organizers ask that all who participate wear a blue shirt (aqua if possible) and to not bring signs.
No money or donations will be collected, according to the Facebook post: "We are locals that want our beaches back and to save marine life."