Turtle released back to sea as part of Navy Day celebrations in Faro
Faro welcomed this year’s celebrations of Portuguese Navy Day by hosting several events and activities between last Thursday and Sunday (May 19-22), including everything from boat tours and sea baptisms to exhibitions, concerts and military activity showcases. A major highlight was the highly anticipated release of a turtle back to the sea.
Spearheading the celebrations was Admiral Henrique Gouveia e Melo, the former head of Portugal’s Covid-19 vaccination task force and the current Chief of Naval Staff of the Portuguese Navy.
In fact, it was Gouveia e Melo himself who released a loggerhead sea turtle back into the sea on Thursday (May 19), around 10 nautical miles off Faro where the sea temperature is considered ideal for the species.
The turtle was transported aboard the NRP Hidra patrol boat. The occasion was also an opportunity to celebrate the long partnership between Zoomarine, the Guia-based theme park where the turtle was being nursed back to health since March, and the National Maritime Authority in nature conservation missions.
‘Tortuga’, as it was named by its carers, weighed just 3.7 kilos when it entered Zoomarine’s care after being found caught (and partially submerged) in fishing nets.
The fisherman who found the animal knew it was in danger due to its injuries (and a possible risk of pneumonia) and brought it to shore to be observed by Zoomarine specialists.
The turtle’s recovery was quick, nonetheless, and two months later it was deemed ready to be returned to its natural habitat.
Admiral Gouveia e Melo had nothing but good things to say about the work carried out at Zoomarine’s rehabilitation centre for marine animals.
“This activity is about the preservation of marine resources which is absolutely essential. The sea is the future of the planet’s sustainability and the regulator of the climate,” he said.
Gouveia e Melo directly addressed the “experienced” Zoomarine team, saying “these people are working to guarantee the sustainability of the ocean, to guarantee that with the right policies and attitudes, we do not destroy something that is essential to our life”.
As he said, “protecting the ocean is protecting human life.”
Zoomarine founder Pedro Lavia thanked Gouveia e Melo for his words, adding that the theme park’s “job is to provide environmental education and also a component of joy and happiness, something which is missing a lot in today’s world.”
But the release of the turtle was not the only event held to mark Faro’s hosting of the Navy Day celebrations.
Faro’s Forum Algarve shopping centre hosted a Portuguese Navy exhibition, where a series of demonstrations were held by marines and other Navy officers. The Portuguese Navy Band also performed at the shopping centre.
Navy ships were open to visits from the public at Faro’s commercial dock, while sea baptisms took place at Cais das Portas do Mar and Cais do Ladrão. The Navy also put on an exhibition at Faro Museum.
Last but not least, a military parade was also held on Sunday along Faro’s riverside, followed by a military showcase starring a Super Lynx Mk95A (19205) helicopter, which was recently renovated in the UK. The helicopter flew over Cais da Porta Nova, an area where flight is normally restricted as it is located near Faro Airport’s no.28 landing strip.
Speaking at the ceremony which brought the Navy Day celebrations to an end on Sunday (May 22), Admiral Gouveia e Melo said it was a “great honour to accept the challenge” of hosting the 2020 Navy Day in the capital of the Algarve.
Due to the pandemic, the celebrations were postponed for two years.
“It was a difficult decision, dictated by the larger goal of focusing our attention and efforts on the safety of the Portuguese people,” said Gouveia e Melo, adding that now is finally the time for people to come together again as a society.
He also provided some further insight into the goal of the Navy Day, an initiative that aims to spread the word about what this military force does and what its values are, whilst also testing its logistical capabilities.
The event brought together around 1,200 Navy personnel and equipment in Faro in a “short amount of time,” spread out in tents outside of the force’s “comfort zone” – a demonstration that Portugal can count on the Navy for whatever is necessary at any time, without prior notice, said the Admiral.
Minister of Defence, Helena Carreiras, also attended the celebrations and highlighted the importance of the Navy in Portugal’s multilateral relations and in the elevation of Portugal as a promoter of maritime safety.
“In such a globalised and dynamic world, where maritime commerce holds such weight on the global economy, it is fundamental to ensure a free and safe usage of the sea,” the minister said.
What is Navy Day?
Portuguese Navy Day is celebrated on May 20 since 1998, in honour of Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama and his fleet’s historic voyage to India by way of Cape of Good Hope (1497–1499) – the first to link Europe and Asia by sea.
The Navy Day is celebrated every year in a Portuguese coastal town, aiming to “strengthen ties between the Portuguese population and its Navy.”
Original article written by Bruno Filipe Pires for Barlavento newspaper.