MARATHON (CBSMiami/FKNB) – About 1,000 people gathered in the Florida Keys Friday to applaud the release of a rehabilitated juvenile green sea turtle fitted with a satellite tracking transmitter to join an online “race.”

“St. Thomas,” a 35-pound male, and 15 other sea turtles are to participate in Tour de Turtles online educational competition that officially begins August 1st and is organized by the Sea Turtle Conservancy. The unique “tour” follows the long-distance migration of different species of sea turtles and collects location, swim speed and sometimes ocean depth data from their satellite transmitters.

READ MORE: Seminoles Suspend Sports Betting After Court Rulings

“St. Thomas” was found floating offshore of the Keys last October covered in Fibropapilloma tumors, caused by a herpes-like virus that affects sea turtles around the world. A veterinarian at the Florida Keys-based Turtle Hospital surgically removed the tumors and the reptile fully recovered.

“St. Thomas” is the smallest and the only rehabilitated turtle racing. Each Tour de Turtles participant is associated with a cause and “St. Thomas” is helping to raise awareness about water quality protection.

“The importance of the Tour de Turtles is to be able to do research to find out where these turtles are going, and that enables us to better protect these turtles both in-water and on nesting beaches,” said Dan Evans, a senior research biologist with Sea Turtle Conservancy. “

READ MORE: 23rd Annual 'A Home For The Holidays At The Grove' Comes To CBS On Sunday, December 5th

The public can track the progress of the 16 sea turtles at through October 31st. The turtle that covers the most distance is declared the winner.

Competitors have been or will be released off Florida’s Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean including Cuba.

The Turtle Hospital has been rescuing, rehabilitating and returning turtles to the wild for over 30 years.

MORE NEWS: Sharp Increase In Hospitalized Children With Covid Investigated In South Africa

(©2019 CBS Local Media. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Florida Keys News Bureau contributed to this report.)