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 the establishment of 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, the 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 both 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 currently encompasses Samana Bay and the Northern and Eastern coastline of the Dominican Republic, an area frequently traveled by 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), Puerto Rico (Mona Passage), the Virgin Islands (Virgin Bank) and Anguilla (Anguilla Bank).
This was a monumental achievement for the sanctuary commission, and placed an even larger emphasis on the educational and regulatory aspects of it’s duties. The commission was required to define guidelines and regulations for each distinctive area of the sanctuary (areas are delineated for whale activity and travel, whale watching, tourism, local boat traffic, water sports equipment, scuba diving, fishing and transient ship traffic). 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 designed guidelines and regulations that remain at the forefront of sanctuary creation and management worldwide.
Mandatory workshops have been established for all operators and tender drivers applying for an operator’s permit in the Sanctuary. These workshops cover Sanctuary history, humpback whale history and ecology, 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 crew and photographer techniques, and whale watching etiquette between operators. These workshops use slide shows and video footage to reinforce many of the topics discussed, and are held as an open forum updated on a yearly basis. It's imperative that all persons involved in promoting and executing research and whale watching activities follow the same modus operandi, thereby establishing a harmonious relationship between operators and ensuring safety for operators, guests, and whales. In 2007, Tom Conlin, founder of Aquatic Adventures, was asked by the Secretary of the Environment to rewrite the regulations, contracts and agreements for all operators and visitors of the Sanctuary.