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Located in the Caribbean, Dominica is an island nation surrounded by sheltered bays and deep underwater canyons.  These features provide the perfect habitat for a range of cetacean species, including, most notably, sperm whales, which can be observed relatively close to shore.  Commercial whale watching started in the early 1990s, and since then Dominica has become one of the world’s most highly promoted whale watching tourism destinations, drawing over 14,000 whale watching tourists per year as of 2008, and generating close to 2 million USD of tourism income1.  Much of the country’s tourism is linked to cruise ships, with tour operators reporting in 2008 that cruise ship passengers made up between 50 and 90% of their customers1. Trips generally take place on boats accommodating between 20 and 80 passengers, and last between 2 and 4 hours.

Target species, peak times of year and locations:

Sperm whales, which are present year-round, are definitely the main attraction for whale and dolphin watching tours in Dominica, and are the reason the country continually features in the top-10 whale watching destinations of various websites and tourism publications.  However, humpback whales are also present seasonally between November and April, and a number of dolphin species can also be observed year round. The most commonly observed species include pantropical spotted dolphins, Fraser’s dolphins, and common bottlenose dolphins. However, false killer whales, pygmy killer whales, dwarf and pygmy sperm whales, melon-headed whales and two different beaked whale species have also been observed during tours in recent years.

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Species

Towns or harbours

Platform (motorized boat, swim-with, aerial)

Peak time of year to observe

Sperm whale (Physeter macrocephalus)

Roseau, Portsmouth

Motorized boat, in water encounters

Year-round

Humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae)

Roseau, Portsmouth

Motorized boat

November-April

Pantropical spotted dolphin (Stenella attenuata)

Roseau, Portsmouth

Motorized boat

Year-round

Frasers’s dolphin (Lagenodelphis hosei)

Roseau, Portsmouth

Motorized boat

Year-round

Common bottlenose dolphin (Tursiops truncatus)

Roseau, Portsmouth

Motorized boat

Year-round

 Additional information about whale watching opportunities in Dominica can be found on the following websites:

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Regulations and guidelines

All marine-based tourism in Dominica is well-regulated from a maritime safety perspective, with vessels regularly inspected for vessel integrity, compliance with requirements for life jackets, maximum capacity, and crew training, by both the federal government and the cruise lines which offer tours.  While no formal, legally enforceable legislation is in place to govern on the water whale watching activities in Dominica, boat-based operators must hold watersports licenses and swim-with-the-whale encounters for tourists are only conducted by tour operators and guides who have been issued 'research' permits by the federal government. These in-water tours do not yet have any formalized codes of conduct, beyond application to the Fisheries Division for approval and payment of a significant fee. However, the government and local operators are working to develop a formalized set of regulations for permitting as well as behaviour of vessels and swimmers in the case of in-water encounters. 

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Research on whale watching in Dominica

The year -round presence of sperm whales relatively close to shore has made Dominica one of the world’s best places to study this species and learn about its ecology, behaviour, communication, and physiology.  Research on this species is led by the Dominica Sperm Whale project, and the full list of peer-reviewed publications arising from their work can be viewed here: http://www.thespermwhaleproject.org/pubs 

Research has not yet focused on the potential impacts of whale watching on cetaceans in Dominica.

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Referencias

Mostrar/Ocultar referencias
  1. O’Connor, S., Campbell, R., Cortez, H. & Knowles, T. Whale Watching Worldwide: tourism numbers, expenditures and expanding economic benefits; a special report from the International Fund for Animal Welfare. (Yarmouth MA, USA, 2009).

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