Panama Celebrates New Law Protecting Coral

After more than three years of learning and collaboration with our partners at the Centro de Incidencia Ambiental (CIAM), ELAW is pleased to report that Panama has adopted a new coral reef law, with stronger protections that hold the promise of protecting Panama’s reefs for future generations.

In March 2019, CIAM reached out to ELAW about Panama’s existing legislation for protecting coral. ELAW’s Law Team shared model laws from Mexico, as well as water quality standards in the Cartagena Convention. The ELAW Science Team shared information about activities and chemicals that threaten coral reefs and associated fisheries.

The information helped CIAM draft a law that would effectively protect coral reefs, seagrass, and associated ecosystems. That law was submitted as a citizen initiative to the legislature in 2019.

During debates over the draft law, CIAM identified provisions, such as prohibiting the import of corals, that were sticking points for lawmakers. ELAW provided CIAM with scientific information about the danger of importing coral, with examples of successful reef restoration efforts in Florida that did not require imported coral. ELAW also shared legal precedents from Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Puerto Rico where the extraction and import of coral is prohibited. Finally, ELAW provided CIAM with information about the impacts of sedimentation on coral reefs, as well as guidelines from Australia on how to regulate sediment near coral.

Throughout 2021 and 2022, ELAW and CIAM worked together again to educate people in Panama about the science of protecting coral, and about the proposed law.

Persistence pays off! On May 31, 2022, the new coral reef law was adopted. Find it here.

Congratulations to our partners at CIAM for their success protecting coral reefs in Panama for generations to come.

Alejandra Serrano
Environmental Law Alliance Worldwide