Thousands lined Florida's beaches on Sunday to demand state leaders stop future red tide and blue-green toxic algae outbreaks that are killing wildlife and threatening public health.
The "Hands Along the Water" events happened on the Gulf Coast and Atlantic coasts from the St. Petersburg area to Fort Myers to Fort Lauderdale. The stench on some beaches from animals killed by the current red tide outbreak caused some protestors to wear breathing masks.
The red tide toxic algae bloom has overrun Florida's southern Gulf Coast this summer as thousands of dead fish, hundreds of sea turtles, some dolphins and even a whale shark have washed ashore. There is debate over whether pollution has worsened the red tide outbreak, which occurs naturally.
The state is also dealing with freshwater algae outbreak – known as blue-green algae – that is clogging canals connected to Lake Okeechobee. It's caused by fertilizer runoff.
Blue-green algae are properly called cyanobacteria. Some species of cyanobacteria occur in the ocean, but blooms – extremely high levels that create green surface scums of algae – happen mainly in lakes and rivers, where salinity is low.
Rebekka Mackey helped organize an event in Fort Lauderdale specifically warning of the dangers of blue-green algae on the environment and residents.
One protester expressed fear of the blue-green algae damaging beaches, the environment and spreading sickness to residents.