CLEARWATER BEACH, Fla. -- Thousands of hands joined together on Bay area beaches Saturday as part of the annual “Hands Across the Sand” event.

  • Thousands gathered for "Hands Across the Sand" event
  • Goal is to raise awareness about clean energy
  • Attendees spoke out against offshore drilling

City and county leaders, lawmakers and environmental advocates raised awareness about clean energy and also spoke out against offshore drilling.

Sheri Heilman’s Clearwater Beach businesses--Heilman’s Beachcomber and Bobby’s Bistro--have been through the good, bad and downright devastating.

"We've survived hurricanes, oil spills, hotels being torn down and we're still there but during the time when there was oil on this beach it was devastating," Heilman said.

Heilman is referring to the 2010 BP oil spill which caused Florida’s tourism industry to take a major hit.

"The fear that it affected the seafood, just like plastics, is such a real fear that they could be sick from it, and people then choose to go somewhere else," Heilman said.

Since then, Heilman said businesses have bounced back. Every year since, environmental groups around the state join hands to speak out against offshore drilling.

"It's a very scary time because this is how we make money in Florida," Phil Compton with the Florida chapter of the Sierra Club. "We make more money, have more jobs from our coastal tourism and fishing industry than anything else and to threaten that is very foolish."

City and county leaders along with federal lawmakers vowed to fight back against the Trump administration’s plan to open nearly all U.S. waters to offshore drilling.

They said it’s something that impacts everyone and they’ll do whatever it takes to keep the coast clear and oil free.

During Saturday’s event on Clearwater Beach, the Sierra Club’s Florida Chapter announced it would be endorsing Bill Nelson in the upcoming senate race.

Nelson faces current Governor Rick Scott, who has also stated that he opposes offshore drilling.