The Whale-Watching Web: Dominican Republic

Dominican Republic - Whale Watch

In October 1986, following several years of study, Joaquin Balagaer, the country's president, protected Silver Bank as a humpback whale sanctuary. The resulting publicity helped attract whale-watching tourists. Rather than Silver Bank, however, the focus has become Samaná Bay because of its proximity to the tourist track: the whales can be seen in an area only 45 minutes away from the town of Samaná. Altough whale-watching trips began in 1985 by a single operator, regular tours started only in 1988. The season is January through March.

In 1990, the main whale-watching company escorted a total of 900 tourists on half-day trips. Direct revenues were £6,000 ($10,000 US) with estimated total revenues of £41,000 ($70,000 US). In 1991, there was a 20 percent increase in the number of whale-watching trips by the main company.

Since January 1992, the industry has expanded several times over with at least five operators offering daily or twice-daily tours. There are also many part-time operators coming from around the Dominican Republic. Total numbers for the year have not been assembled yet.

To date, the whale watchers are almost all foreigners because the tours are considered too expensive by locals. In January 1992, the Secretary of Tourism began levying a tax of £0.60 ($1.00 US) per person for whale watching. This will provide additional income for the department and help to regulate and keep track of the numbers os whale watchers each year.

At Silver Bank, educational activities are run by American and French companies that each bring 10 to 30 students, to spend a month or more with the whales. The students learn about marine conservation and assist in whale research.

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