Since 1962 the Dominican Republic has been a forerunner in the Caribbean basin for establishing and providing marine oriented protection, guidelines, regulations and educational workshops for the preservation of its inland and coastal ecosystems. With the formation of National Marine Parks, Coral Reef and Marine Mammal Legislation and numerous research and conservation organizations, the Dominican Republic is constantly improving its methods of protecting our oceans. In 1982 the Natural History Museum was completed in Santo Domingo boasting an impressive humpback whale exhibit. In 1991 the National Aquarium was opened featuring a rehabilitation facility to support their Marine Stranding Network. The Dominican Republic, in partnership with IVCN of the United Nations, The Nature Conservancy, University of Miami, Center for Marine Conservation, Coastal America, Center for Coastal Studies and the Smithsonian Institute, is one of the leaders in contributing important data for the preservation of our marine environment. Additionally, they are the first Latin American country to apply the latest recommendations from the Convention for Biological Diversity and the Coral Reef Initiative.
On July 5, 1996, by presidential decree No. 233/96, Article 22, the Silver Bank Sanctuary, established on October 14, 1986, was enlarged and renamed the "Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic". The jurisdiction of the sanctuary now encompasses Samana Bay and the Northern and Eastern coastline of the Dominican Republic, a frequently traveled area of the North Atlantic Humpback Whale while enroute to various breeding and calving locations in the Antilles. These breeding and calving grounds include the waters of the Dominican Republic (primarily Silver Bank, Navidad Bank and Samana Bay), Mona Passage (Puerto Rico), Virgin Bank and Anguilla Bank.
This is a monumental achievement for the sanctuary commission, placing an even larger burden of responsibility in the educational and regulatory aspects of their duties. With distinctive definitions of each areas activities such as breeding and calving, juvenile gathering, whale traveling routes, human interaction, tourism, local boat traffic, water sports equipment, scuba diving, fishing and transient ship traffic, the management of this newly enlarged sanctuary will be required to distinguish guidelines and regulations specifically designed for each distinctive area. With the knowledge gained since the inception of the Silver Bank Sanctuary in 1986, and the assistance of national and international advisors, the sanctuary commission will have the opportunity of designing guidelines and regulations that will be at the forefront of future sanctuaries worldwide.
Mandatory workshops have already been established for all operators and tender drivers applying for a operators permit in the "Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic" for the 1998 season. These workshops will encompass sanctuary history, humpback whale history, regulations, passenger briefings, feeding zones, feeding behaviors, migration, breeding and calving zones, breeding and calving behavior, surface postures, terminology, theories, previous observations, approach techniques, soft-in-water encounter techniques, professional film crews, photographers and whale watching etiquette between operators. These workshops supply slide shows and video footage reinforcing many of the topics discussed and will be held as an open forum so that they can update all information and techniques on a yearly basis. It's imperative that all persons involved in promoting and executing research and whale watching activities follow the same mode of operandi, establishing a harmonious gathering of operators, ensuring the integrity and harassment free environment of the "Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic". In 2007, I was asked by the Secretary of the Environment to rewrite the regulations, contracts and agreements for all operators and visitors of the Sanctuary.