A new law guarantees sea turtles in Panama the right to live

It also gives them the right to have a healthy environment free of pollution.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Sea turtles need to be protected.jpg
Sea turtles need to be protected.


New legislation has passed in Panama giving sea turtles the right to live and have free passage in a healthy environment that promotes their wellbeing. The law was signed in by Panama’s president in March.

This is according to a report by Euronews published on Friday.

It “will allow any Panamanian citizen to be the voice of sea turtles and defend them legally,” told the news outlet Callie Veelenturf, founder of a group that works to protect leatherback turtles and that was behind the new law.

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

Now, the hope is that other countries will take similar steps to protect the species that is under threat of extinction.

The development will give sea turtles the right to an environment free of pollution and other nefarious human actions that threaten the development and evolution of the rare species.

Extinction crisis

“Business as usual laws aren’t doing enough to protect against the extinction crisis and climate change,” told Euronews Erica Lyman, a clinical law professor and director of the Global Law Alliance for Animals and the Environment at Lewis and Clark Law School in Portland, Oregon. “This is an attempt at a new kind of framing that offers hope.”

Other experts such as Nicholas Fromherz, an adjunct law professor and director of the alliance’s Latin American Program, commended the law for explicitly saying sea turtles have rights.

The law even prohibits all commerce in sea turtles, parts and eggs, with a small exception made for subsistence use by a few traditional communities.

These communities lost their main source of income as the pandemic halted tourism. They thus began harvesting sea turtle eggs and some nesting turtles to sell for meat and their shells, told Euronews David Godfrey, executive director of the Florida-based Sea Turtle Conservancy. 

This soon became problematic in the conservation of the animals seeing as much as 90 percent of the animals disappear from some beaches.

As such, turtle protection groups, including the conservancy, called for new and improved laws that would offer better clearer protection for sea turtles. They also asked for financial penalties to be implemented.

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