New Caledonia: sharks and turtles are now "natural legal entities". 

In New Caledonia, turtles and sharks have become the first animal species to be granted rights. Like human beings, they can now be represented in court.  

A sandbar shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) swims in the Huon nature reserve in the heart of the d'Entrecasteaux reefs, New Caledonia © Alexis Rosenfeld

Formed by an archipelago of four islands and a province of New Caledonia, the Loyalty Islands have passed a law granting legal rights to turtle and shark populations. Since June 29, these species have enjoyed unprecedented protection and can now be defended in court. They will be represented by a spokesperson who may be an approved association, a local law group, or even the Loyalty Islands province itself.

The aim of this new law is to protect these species, so important to Kanak culture, from anthropogenic threats. Victor David, a researcher in environmental law at the IRD (Institut de Recherche pour le Développement), comments: "The penal sanction provided for in the event of violation of their rights is modelled on the offence of ecocide introduced at national level in 2021". Resulting from the articulation of French law and Kanak customary law, this measure represents a new stage in the right of nature to be protected.

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