‘This is an emergency’: Pinellas County residents call for change in state’s response to red tide

Pinellas County

ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. (WFLA) – A red tide rally along the coast of Pinellas County on Saturday drew the attention of many soaking up the sun at the beach. Community members call it a grassroots effort to get Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare red tide an environmental disaster and make someone take responsibility.

8 On Your Side’s Christine McLarty went to Upham Beach for the rally.

On the shore riddled with dead sea life, the group held a moment of silence to acknowledge the lives lost.

Just feet behind them, hundreds of dead fish and other sea creatures washed up.

They held signs with messages like “When will we wake up?” with a picture of the planet.

“We’re local residents. I’m born and raised in Florida so I have a big heart for what’s going on in the ocean,” said Miranda Rossi, one of the event organizers.

Rossi said she and Wendy Weaver decided to host the grassroots “Red Tide Rally” and march along with a raffle with proceeds going to Tampa Bay Water Keepers.

Rossi and Weaver said they’re hoping to put an end to pollution in our water. They said something has to change to help our environment before it’s too late.

“This is an emergency. It’s horrible what’s happening!” Weaver said.

The group is calling on DeSantis to declare red tide a state of emergency.

“It’s awful to see things we love just dying before our eyes. It’s alarming and should be declared a state of emergency,” Rossi said.

But when the governor visited St. Pete this past week he said no way.

“What we’ve said to the county and the local government, what more do you need? Tell us what you need? And we’re happy to help,” he said.

DeSantis said the state already committed $2 million towards red tide cleanup in Pinellas County and can give more if need be.

Weaver said that’s not the point.

“It’s not about money, if it would all stop being about money then this wouldn’t keep happening. We have to start caring about the planet more than money,” she said.

Desantis said if he did declare a state of emergency it could hurt the state’s economy. But Rossi said transparency is key.

“They’re playing on the economy saying ‘we have to keep it plush for these tourists to come’ but then the tourists get here and it’s not… so it’s this limbo lie that we’re in,” she said.

Many from Saturday’s rally said they plan to attend a similar rally in Tampa on Sunday. That one starts at 11 a.m. at Tampa’s City Hall and they will march to Curtis Hixon Park.

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