Extent of whale and dolphin watching
The Dominican Republic (DR) has the largest whale-watching industry in the Caribbean1. At least 252 humpback whales have been identified at Samaná bay, northeast of the Dominican Republic2. Whale watching in the DR was first established in 1985 from the town of Santa Bárbara de Samaná (from here on referred to as “Samaná”). At this time, an expatriate tour operator began to take mostly foreign tourists out to see the humpback whales that visit Samaná bay between January and March each year to mate and give birth. Many more tour operators followed, and in a short time Samaná became a whale-watching hub, both for day tours in Samaná bay, and as a harbor visited by some of the longer live-aboard tours that take visitors out to the offshore marine mammal sanctuaries of Silver Banks, established in 1986 and later extended to include Navidad Banks and Samaná Bay.
These sanctuaries cover a total area of 32,913 km² representing the most extensive conservation area of the DR and jointly referred to as the Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic (MMDR). The MMDR has a sister sanctuary agreement with the Stellwagen Bank Sanctuary off the Northeast coast of the US to protect North Atlantic humpback whales on both their feeding and breeding grounds, homogenize conservation policies and information exchange and technology transfer through an agreement with the French minister of Ecological and Solidary Transition, signed in 20173. A similar agreement is planned with the Sanctuary of Agoa, French Antilles in the Caribbean. The MMDR has also exchanged experiences with Bequia (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines), and in 2013 a delegation from SVG visited Samaná to learn about whale watching ecotourism and the value of the humpback whale4.