ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Amid the stench of dead fish, protesters marched Saturday along Florida’s Tampa Bay to call for state assistance in dealing with a growing outbreak of harmful red tide.
More than 100 people took part in the event along the St. Petersburg waterfront carrying signs and shouting, “Save our bay, make polluters pay.”
Among other things, the protesters want Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to declare a state of emergency that would free up more resources for the bay. The St. Petersburg City Council this week adopted a resolution calling for an emergency declaration.
The governor’s office has said such a declaration is not necessary and that sufficient money is available for the outbreak from the state Department of Environmental Protection.
“This is not political,” Aimee Comlee, one of the event organizers, told the crowd. “This is life. This is water, and water is life.”
Hundreds of tons of dead marine life has been removed from Tampa Bay in recent weeks because of red tide, a toxic algae bloom that occurs naturally in the Gulf of Mexico but is worsened by the presence of nutrients such as nitrogen in the water.
Many experts say blame for Tampa Bay’s unusually large outbreak rests with the old Piney Point phosphate operation in Manatee County. A leak earlier this year in a reservoir at Piney Point dumped more than 200 million gallons (757 million liters) of contaminated water into the bay.
Nutrients that feed red tide can get into Tampa Bay and Gulf waters through other sources as well.
Red tide outbreaks and reports of dead fish are also being reported in Manatee and Sarasota counties. In addition to fish kills, red tide can cause respiratory problems for some people especially with existing conditions such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis.