Source: Photo by Randall Ruiz/Unsplash

Panama’s Historic ‘Rights of Nature’ Law Empowers Sea Turtles, Granting Legal Rights To Protect Nature

In a groundbreaking move, Panama has implemented a new law that grants legal rights and protections to nature itself, marking a significant shift in environmental legislation. This innovative legislation, which came into effect earlier this year, has already been put to use in safeguarding the rights of sea turtles, highlighting a momentous victory for marine conservation efforts worldwide.

“This law aims, first and foremost, to acknowledge Nature as a subject of law, therefore redefining its legal scope of protection and guaranteeing an inherent list of rights to be safeguarded.” – Congressman Juan Diego Vásquez Gutiérrez

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Source: Photo by David Troeger/Unsplash

Protecting Nature’s Rights

Under the newly enacted ‘Rights of Nature’ law in Panama, the legal framework recognizes Nature as a subject deserving of rights and protection. The law encompasses various rights for nature, including the right to exist, persist, and regenerate life cycles, the right to timely and effective restoration, and the right to the preservation of water cycles. In a remarkable announcement, the Latin American Legal Director at Earth Law Center highlighted that the immediate beneficiaries of this legislation would be the sea turtles.

“We look forward to working with Panama and our partners to implement the Rights of Nature law, with one initial target being a rights-based law protecting sea turtle populations.” – Constanza Prieto Figelist, Latin American Legal Director at Earth Law Center

Citizens as Advocates

One of the most empowering aspects of this law is that any Panamanian citizen can now act as the voice of sea turtles and defend them legally. This legal avenue enables individuals to hold governments, corporations, and public citizens accountable for any violations of the rights of sea turtles. Marine conservation biologist Callie Veelenturf, who played a pivotal role in proposing the law to Panama’s first lady, emphasizes the significance of this provision in protecting sea turtles from harm.

“Any Panamanian citizen [can] be the voice of sea turtles and defend them legally.” – Callie Veelenturf, Marine Conservation Biologist

Source: Photo by Giorgia Doglioni/Unsplash

Addressing Environmental Challenges

Panama’s diverse coastal regions boast crucial nesting spots for leatherback sea turtles and hawksbill sea turtles. However, the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the local ecotourism industry, leading some individuals to resort to harvesting sea turtle eggs and even capturing nesting turtles for meat and shells. While previous legislation had some ambiguity regarding sea turtle protection outside national parks and protected marine areas, the new law provides a clear legal means for animal rights groups to defend these vulnerable creatures.

“We will be able to hold governments, corporations, and public citizens legally accountable for violations of the rights of sea turtles.” – Callie Veelenturf

Expanding the Rights of Nature Movement

While the concept of granting legal rights to nature has gained traction globally in recent years, Panama’s ‘Rights of Nature’ law adds significant momentum to the movement. Similar legislation has been enacted in countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and Uganda, with many more nations implementing localized versions of rights of nature laws. However, in the United States, the absence of comprehensive national laws has limited the enforcement of such legislation, as local laws are subordinate to national regulations.

The Future of Environmental Protection

Despite the challenges faced in the United States, the passing of Panama’s ‘Rights of Nature’ law and the growing support for similar legislation worldwide indicate a promising future for the protection of natural ecosystems. These laws offer a powerful legal instrument to safeguard the environment, ensuring the well-being and preservation of diverse species, such as sea turtles, that previously lacked adequate legal safeguards.

If you want to read more about turtles, read this article about how endangered turtles hatch unannounced in an Ecuadorian town!

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Help to protect this critically endangered species by doing beach patrols, helping in the hatchery and educating the community about the conservation projects. Find out more... grants legal rights and protections to nature

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