MADRID (AP) — Spain granted personhood status Wednesday to a large salt-water lagoon that has suffered massive die-offs of marine life, a new law that comes after a citizen-led push to provide better protection for the threatened ecosystem.
The initiative backed by more than 600,000 citizens will become law after Spain’s Senate voted in favor of the proposal to grant the Mar Menor lagoon on Spain’s southeastern coast the status of personhood, the first time such a measure has been taken in Spain.
A total of 1,600 square kilometers (994 square miles) of the lagoon and the nearby Mediterranean coastline will now be legally represented by a group of caretakers made up of local officials, local citizens and scientists who work in the area. The grassroots group that pushed the measure hopes this will improve the ability to defend the lagoon from further degradation.
For years, ecologists and citizens have denounced the periodic die-offs of marine life in the lagoon due to the runoff of fertilizers from nearby farms.
“So that natural disasters like those that have occurred, so that the episodes of mortality of fauna of the Mar Menor don’t return, let’s give this ecosystem its own rights,” Senator María Moreno said before the vote.
The law codifies the lagoon’s right “to exist as an ecosystem and to evolve naturally” and recognizes its right to protection, conservation and restoration.
In 2017, New Zealand passed a groundbreaking law granting personhood status to the Whanganui River.
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