Bathing season cannot be restricted to just summer, says the Nadadores Salvadores Federation


Lisbon, April 15, 2024 (Lusa) – The president of the Portuguese Federation of Lifeguards (FEPONS) defended today that the bathing season “cannot be restricted to summer only” and advocated an increase in water safety education.

Alexandre Tadeia reacted in this way to the various drowning situations recorded this weekend on Portuguese beaches, which led the National Maritime Authority to carry out 249 rescues in the last three days, with three people missing in a bathing context.

“The first measure that must be taken is that the bathing season cannot be restricted to just the summer, it has to be much more dynamic, just like the fire season. It has to be all year round because we use the beaches all year round”, said the person responsible in statements to Lusa.

Alexandre Tadeia realized a long time ago that, “with climate change, there would be periods of heat outside what is normal” and recalled that, in 2020, through a study, FEPONS managed to “correlate the rise in temperature with death by drowning.”

“This means that, when the temperature rises, deaths along the way increase as well. Now, when we saw the predictions of heat waves, it is obvious that we saw them with skepticism, because obviously the beaches are not monitored and this is perhaps the first measure that should be taken”, he stated.

Alexandre Tadeia stressed that he was not talking about surveillance like the one that takes place during the summer, but a different device, giving the example of what already happens on some beaches with vehicles that carry out this surveillance all year round, such as in Nazaré, Póvoa de Varzim and Fonte da Telha.

“These are good examples of what is being done at national level and this is the first major measure: to fully expand [surveillance]”, he stressed.

According to the president of FEPONS, it is also necessary to “make local authorities responsible for assistance to bathers, because at this moment they continue to push [beach] concessionaires a responsibility that has already been theirs since 2018”.

“If it is not the local authorities, it is obviously not possible to implement this system all year round, nor is it possible to have equipment that, in fact, protects the lifeguard and with which we can carry out prevention”, he highlighted, listing equipment such as motorbikes water, [surveillance] towers and quad bikes.

In addition to this equipment, which “is fundamental” for surveillance, the official also highlighted the importance of increasing “water safety education in Portuguese schools”.

“Without a doubt, even if we have the beaches monitored throughout the year, all Portuguese beaches, there has to be a question of culture, of education, which at the moment does not exist. We only have two pages of the third class manual, which cover water safety and that is very poor, considering the 12 years of schooling”, she acknowledged.

Alexandra Tadeia considered that “the Portuguese do not know the dangers of beaches and rivers” and, those who do, “do not value them”.

“So, all of this, in fact, causes us to have this moment, and whenever there is a heat peak outside of what we call the bathing season, we always have this horrible issue”, he identified.

The bathing season each year is defined in an ordinance, published in the Diário da República, which identifies the bathing waters and the definition of the respective season, considering that, at national level, it runs from May 1st to October 30th.

Between these dates, municipal councils determine when it starts and ends in their territory, some starting earlier and ending later.

According to the person responsible, in the first fortnight of April, FEPONS has already recorded 17 deaths in the aquatic environment, “17 deaths is more than one death per day on average, not only on sea beaches, but also inland”.

“It leads us here to consider, in fact, that the policies that are being followed are not the best. It has to change. A lot has already been done in the past, but we have to change”, she pointed out, recognizing the current “sad scenario”.

Alexandre Tadeia also argued that it would be better to opt for a proactive measure such as prevention and not reactive measures, as is currently the case.

“We spent many thousands of euros on body search operations. In other words, in a reactive measure, when this money could obviously be spent on prevention and would be enough to monitor these spaces. Therefore, this vision clearly needs to change for the water safety of the Portuguese”, he retorted.

Maritime authorities are today involved in several searches by water and/or land due to disappearances during the weekend in sea and river waters: on Costa Nova beach, in Ílhavo, in the district of Aveiro; on Vieira beach, in Marinha Grande, district of Leiria; on the Tagus River, in Lisbon; and on Salgueiros beach, in Vila Nova de Gaia, district of Porto.