WHALES AND DOLPHIN WATCHING IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC
Whale watching in the Dominican Republic started
with fanfare and great potential in 1985. In 1986, president Joaquin Balagaer
designated the Silver Bank Humpback Whale Sanctuary. This gave the country an
international lustre and appeal as the location of the first humpback marine protected area — a place
where many of the 10,000+ humpbacks from all over the North Atlantic come to sing,
mate, calve and raise their young. As millions of Americans in New England ventured out
of the Boston and Cape Cod area to meet the humpbacks as they fed in northern
waters, they were intrigued to learn about where they went in winter: the warm waters of the
DR. Even more enticing, the whales could be seen from shore and within a half hour
boat trip from Samaná Bay. It had the potential to be the perfect tourism campaign for
visiting the DR in winter. Since the late 1980s, the DR has been one of the
fastest growing tourism destinations in the Caribbean. With good beaches
and a hotel capacity of 38,000 hotel rooms (1997), the highest in the Caribbean and
climbing, the DR has become one of the key package holiday destinations for Germans,
Italians, and many others. But for the most part, they are not coming for the whale watching.
In fact, whale watching occupies a minor role in attracting people to the DR. For most of
the mid- to late-1990s, whale watchers have numbered around 15,000-20,000 people a year.
It is true that this is larger than anywhere else in the Caribbean, but for a place
that has such overwhelming promise, it might also be considered disappointing. The
expectation of the operators themselves in the mid-1990s was for at least 30,000 people a year.
The level is estimated to have reached 30,000 whale watchers in 1996 before falling back
to around 20,000. It could have gone even higher — perhaps to 50-75,000 by 1998 — and
still be supported by the existing infrastructure. These are still modest numbers
compared to the 200,000+ that go whale watching around Maui, Hawaii, or the 80,000 who
go to Hervey Bay, Australia, during similar limited seasons for humpbacks. What has happened to constrain whale watching in
the DR? First I will outline the problems, make some comments, and then talk about
the various initiatives already underway. Finally I will make some additional
recommendations. The problems fall in several areas:
1. The overall structure of the DR tourism industry is based on package holidays with tourists buying 'all inclusive' fixed itineraries with minimal flexibility. This means as a practical matter that the tourist will only be able to take a whale watch trip if it is included in the holiday or if they book it from a tour company or through the local representative of the international tour operator at the hotel where they are staying. In this way, the foreign tour operator or large tour agency take the lead in the marketing and sales (and both do very little at all in the case of whale watching) and then take a big cut. In early 1999, the rates tourists paid for a whale watch tour at their hotel were about $60 USD but the whale watch company received as little as $30 USD. The other $30 USD leaks out of the local whale watch communities. Whilst some of it probably stays in the country, most goes to the international guides (an estimated 20-30% of the total) and that ends up back in the international companies' home country.
2. Safety, boat-size and whale-watch practices: Worldwide, whale watching has a very good safety record. Considering that more than 5 million people a year have been going whale watching in recent years, the accidents have been few and far between. Every few years, however, there has been a serious accident and even some fatalities. One of these occurred in Samana Bay on March 2, 1995, when an overloaded boat's upper deck collapsed as the boat rolled after being hit by a wave. Twenty four passengers fell into the water, some receiving light injuries, and one Italian tourist was killed. This event contributed to the largest German tour operator, TUI, among others, refusing to include whale watching in their itineraries. Indeed, TUI was already concerned about the small size of many of the whale watch boats, the lack of safety equipment, and the lack of effective regulations for whale watching; the accident confirmed their fears.
3. The almost complete absence of naturalists and educational components have exacerbated the problem with safety and regulations, and have diminished the success of marketing through word of mouth. While at least one operator in Samaná regularly offers narrated whale watch tours of a high educational standard and several others offer tours with a modest educational standard, many boats offer none at all. At a recent international whale watch workshop on education, it was determined that the single most important element to ensure a high quality enjoyable tour was the presence of a qualified naturalist (see IFAW, WWF, and WDCS 1997). Further, an educational programme gets the tourists and the community involved and provides an experience that can be talked about, setting up a word-of-mouth situation that helps build the success of a whale watch community.
4. Image and marketing: The image of a whale
watch industry is wrapped up partly in its reputation for safety and the charisma of
the operator and naturalist guides. Perhaps the great image conferred on the DR from
the start with the Silver Bank Sanctuary spoiled the local whale watching and
tourism industry. They did not have to bother with international marketing as it
seemed to have been done for them. In any case, it is now necessary for
operators, the local community, tourism officials and NGOs to take a pro-active role in
creating a unique, high quality whale watch 'product' complete with a supporting
community and overseas marketing programme. Kaikoura, New Zealand,
created such a product and community, with 40 new businesses, in a small
depressed town over a 5-6 year period, attracting 100,000+ tourists to go whale
watching. Of course, the DR has only a seasonal business whereas Kaikoura's is
almost year round and includes dolphins as well as humpback whales. But the
humpback whale season is in the main tourist high season, and enterprising
operators could also expand to dolphin watching and other ecotourism involving nearby
Los Haitises National Park with its mangrove forests and cave paintings of
whales. The season could be extended considerably. Through attention to items 2-4, the first item,
the existing overall structure for selling the tours, can, I believe, be modified
and in many cases overcome. If a high quality, special product can be developed and provided
consistently to customers, a product which includes strong educational components and has
the right image and marketing, then people will start to come to the Dominican
Republic specifically to go whale watching. There will still be the package tourists who
sometimes take the trips, but the point is that the high value that dedicated whale watchers
would put on seeing whales would create a much more valuable industry, with local companies
able to charge more and earn more — even if visitor numbers stay largely the same or
do not increase by much. In terms of marketing and image, there is much
that can be done within the country. In July 1996, law no. 233-96 made Samaná
Bay part of a new 'Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic' which
included Silver Bank, Navidad Bank and the waters connecting the three areas.
Conservationists were jubilant. But a year later, the law was revoked which reduced the protected area to
the original Silver Bank alone. There is a great deal to be said for protected areas and
wildlife. At minimum, protected areas are a statement of intention to protect wildlife and
its habitat. At best, real protection is afforded, with habitat set aside where needed and multiple
use including tourism and light industry and fishing encouraged where possible. But most
important of all to tourism and marketing is that a protected area provides an instant
'brand name' with a lustrous appeal. It immediately becomes a reason for visiting a
country, a place to go and enjoy, or even a place just to know about. The number of tourists
who take cruises to Alaska largely or at least in part because of the promise of protected
wilderness and national parks with grizzly bears, eagles, humpback whales and orcas is very
high; the number who actually see all or even some of the above is much smaller. Yet by
visiting the waters and forests of Alaska, the average tourist feels part of the mystique of
the place. It is interesting to note that while the Turks &
Caicos Islands continue to designate more and more marine reserves, the pioneer in
marine reserves in the Caribbean, the DR, appears to have moved backwards by reversing
proposed designations. The prospective ecotourist, diver, nature lover, and/or whale
watcher sees a message here, although the result is difficult to measure in year-by-year
tourism figures. However, over time, the erosion of a country's image can alter those
figures and the change may well be difficult to reverse. One thing is certain: as the world's
green and blue areas are increasingly paved and destroyed, the value of land- and
marine-based parks and wilderness becomes greater and greater. The increasing urbanisation of the
world and the laws of supply and demand make pristine areas more valuable every year. Idelisa Bonnelly de Calventi and other members of
the Intergovernmental Management Committee for the Silver Bank Marine
Sanctuary (Comisión Rectora) have fulfilled a key role in terms of encouraging
marine conservation in all its aspects including whale watching and not only at Silver Bank, their
orginal remit, but also in Samaná Bay. The Comisión Rectora was originally set up to
administer the Silver Bank Sanctuary but their positive influence has extended to marine
mammals all over the Dominican Republic. In 1997, responding to the whale watching
accident and other criticisms from foreign tourist operators, the Comisión Rectora
stepped in to take the lead in establishing an organised system for the whale watching at
Samaná. They established a permit system, a boat-size payment system, and gave the boat
captains lectures and training. Special training was also developed for three whale
watching 'inspectors' for the area. A page was established on the Internet to give information
on whale watching, the sanctuary and marine mammals. The Comisión set up a dialogue
with TUI, the largest German tour operator, to try to convince them to return to
the DR for whale watching, based on the comisión's efforts to redirect it. At the same
time, they began to encourage more of an interest in the local people to visit the whales
through TV and radio interviews. A Festival de las Ballenas was planned for 1998 and a
seminar with the University of Valencia in Spain to feature scientific trips. All of this
was accomplished with essentially volunteer help. Another NGO called CEBSE, which has been working
in the Samaná Bay area since the early 1990s, has recently begun to play
a greater role with whale watching. Initially working in close partnership with the
Centre for Marine Conservation (CMC), CEBSE (whose Spanish name roughly translates as
the Centre for the Conservation and Ecodevelopment of the Bay of Samaná and its
Environment) took over the job of coordinating the co-management of whale watching in the 1998
whale watch season. Their work is being done in coordination with the
Association of Boat Owners, the director of National Parks, and the Secretary of Tourism. The
Dominican Navy is the supporting institution charged with implementing
regulations. In 1992 whale watching guidelines were introduced to Samaná Bay, but the compliance
and enforcement were unsatisfactory. In 1997, after the Comisión Rectora's
organisational work, it was agreed that in 1998 CEBSE would take over the co-ordination of whale
watching. So far, CEBSE has promoted a code of conduct with
a revision of the previous guidelines based on those used in other areas of
the world. It has helped organise regular meetings (8 in 1998) with all the boat owners and
other stakeholders to discuss various matters and to help implement the regulations and
an educational programme. At the same time, National Parks have co-ordinated the
issuing of permits. CEBSE appears to have made a start toward successful management, but
there are many more challenges ahead, especially if whale watching starts to expand. With a permit licensing system for the boats, the
boat owners are now responsible for working toward fulfilling the guidelines
which stipulate certain minimum distances and maximum number of boats to be near the whales and
the amount of time each boat may spend with the whales. All of these are sensible
traffic management rules which, if consistently followed, will improve the
situation. The procedure for enforcement is to give a first violation warning for an observed
violation, followed by a one day prohibition or a fine of 200 pesos (less that $15 USD) for a
second offense. A third violation would result in losing the permit, depending on the kind of
violation. In 1998 the most common violations noted were excess speed and too many
boats in the observation area at the same time (three is maximum). For repeat violations,
the boat owners were sanctioned with minor penalties, losing a day on the water. There
were only two serious violations observed. Unfortunately, however, CEBSE has no
boat to monitor the situation, and is reliant on going to sea as observers who are of
course known to all. However, some volunteers have assisted in the monitoring from
the Centre for Marine Conservation (CMC) and the German Service of Social Tehnical
Cooperation (DED) who have worked in the area the past few years. There has also
been some monitoring from land at Punta Balandra where it is possible to see almost the
entire area where the whale watching occurs using binoculars. In future, with the
addition of theodolites from land, it may be possible to do studies of whales and whale
watching as well as more effective monitoring for management. The whale watching at Samaná takes place from six
different ports: Samaná, Las Galeras, Cayo Levantado, Caleton, and Plaza Simi
Baez. There are 21 companies involved and the total number of boats used is 39. The
boats range in capacity from 7 passengers to 125 passengers. 20 of the boats (51%) carry 12
passengers or less, while 9 boats carry between 13 and 25 passengers (23%). Only 10 boats
(26%) are of the optimum size for whale watching, carrying 26 passengers or more. CEBSE is currently trying to regulate the boat
size as there are recurring accidents with the small boats, and whale watching from a
small boat can be unpleasant in a slightly rough sea. CEBSE plans to improve the licensing
system to ensure that the boats are larger and safer. For this, they are working closely
with the Association of Boat Owners. At present, 24 (62%) of the 39 boats that have
permits are registered as members of the association. The cost of the boat permits varies
by size: 1-12 passengers = 1,500 RD ($100 USD); 13-25 passengers = 3,000 RD ($200 USD); and
26 passengers or more = 5,000 RD ($350 USD). The funds are used to pay for whale
watch monitors and the operational expenses for the management scheme. The 1998
budget spent 93,875 RD ($6,600 USD) and this came from boat income of 107,000 RD
($7,500 USD), 11,650 ($800) of which had yet to be paid by boat owners at the end of
the year. The total capacity for all the boats from the six
departure ports on Samaná Bay is 1,081 passengers. The biggest port and centre of
the whale watching is the town of Samaná itself, with 17 boats from 9 companies,
with a capacity of 766 passengers (see Table 3). Here, the changes due to whale watching
are especially noticeable: new restaurants, gift shops, plus the increase in the
numbers of boats, boat companies, and tourism guides. One of the biggest continuing challenges will be
education. A naturalist training programme, coupled with mandatory provisions for
naturalists on every boat, would help considerably. Because of the various languages of
tourists to the DR, more diverse than in many whale watch locales in the world, it will be
necessary for guides to be bilingual or even trilingual. Key languages required are
Spanish, English, German and Italian, though French and even Japanese are also useful. To
experience a multi-lingual naturalist education programme in action, DR operators could
visit Hvalsafari, the whale watch company in Andenes, Norway (see IFAW, WWF & WDCS
1997). Another need to be addressed is to educate the
international tour guides who effectively 'sell' the tours or arrange the tours
for tourists. Much could be done to improve the communication and general knowledge of the
tour guides regarding whale watching. If they are to be the main (or one of the)
representatives of whale watching to the public, they must at least be better informed and interested
in whale watching. Currently, little communication exists between the international
tour companies and their guides and the local community operators who run the tours. Finally, education needs to be promoted even more
in the community and there should be a budget to encourage these activities.
The Comisión Rectora has done an excellent job in this regard throughout the
country on essentially no money. It has helped to develop children's materials and to put them
into the school curriculum, as well as the other things mentioned above. The hope is that
there could be a regular programme to take school children in the Dominican Republic whale
watching. The other big challenge is to include science in
the trips. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Centre for Coastal Studies helped to
train various DR students into photo-ID researchers with exchange programmes that
operated in New England and DR waters, at both ends of the humpbacks' range. But currently
there is only one student working on the humpback songs and no one is going out on the
boats regularly to do research. There is so much more that could be achieved and this too
would help draw the interest of tourists as well as put whale watching on a sounder
ecological footing. Little has been said about infrastructure. For
the most part, the DR has the support base of hotel rooms, restaurants, roads and docks
necessary for further whale watch development. The Samaná area is not developed
like the capital at Santo Domingo or other large cities in the country. There have been
substantial efforts to develop the Samaná area for tourism in recent years and a new airport is
now half complete. However, as in other areas of the Caribbean, maintaining the balance
between necessary development and sustaining a quality environment is always a
challenge. The work of the Comisión Rectora, CEBSE, the
National Parks, the Ministry of Tourism and its partners, over the next few
years, will be the major task in the Dominican Republic with regard to whale watching. At the
same time, there are several exciting possibilities which might lead to more
diversification and further development of the industry. These could be developed and promoted
by private industry or NGOs:
2. Dolphin watching is virtually unexplored in the Dominican Republic. Dolphins are sometimes seen on the whale watch trips in Samaná Bay. The species sighted are mainly spotted dolphins with occasional pilot whales. At Parque Nacional del Este, in the south-eastern part of the DR, there is a group of dolphins resident year-round. These dolphins could be considered for ecotour possibilities. As they live inshore, there may also be a potential land based component. There are also bottlenose dolphins found to the northwest of Puerto Plata, but they have not been studied. Dolphins are no doubt found in other areas, but surveys would need to be conducted — perhaps by the national parks as part of biodiversity inventories.
3. The third suggestion is to expand the whale-watching boat tours to include dolphins, land-based whale watching and ecotourist explorations of nearby places such as Los Haitises National Park, on the south shore of Samaná Bay, where there are ancient whale paintings on the cave walls. This would create a more well-rounded cultural and ecological whale watch tour and provide a bigger reason for tourists to go whale watching. At the sanctuary on Silver Bank, whale watching has grown slowly since the sanctuary was established due to its offshore location which requires much longer trips than at Samaná. It is 50 miles (80 km) from the north coast of the Dominican Republic. Most boats leave from Puerto Plata but others have left from the Turks & Caicos or even from Florida ports. Besides a few thousand humpbacks which spend the winter there, whale watchers can sometimes see bottlenose, spotted and spinner dolphins, pilot whales and even Bryde's whales and various beaked whales. The season for humpbacks is January to March. In 1993 about 200 people were going whale watching on Silver Bank, and this has climbed slowly and was approaching 500 in 1998. In recent years, there have been persistent reports from Silver Bank of aggressive approaches by boats dropping off swimmers to encounter the whales. In the early 1990s, it had been recommended by Silver Bank's scientific advisors that no swimming be allowed with the whales because of the safety concerns of too many people in the water with whales on their mating grounds. The surface active groups of humpback whales often behave without apparent concern for other whales, tail lashing and charging at each other, and there was concern for the humans who might get caught in the water and not have enough time to return to their boats. Dominican conservationists and marine researchers have repeatedly voiced their fears about this happening due to the difficulty of policing this offshore area. The remote location of Silver Bank means that it is difficult to monitor, but the remoteness has at least served as a cap on the number of people watching or swimming with whales there. Still, some action clearly needs to be taken before whale watching and swimming with whales results in a serious accident, which could result in loss of human life, tarnishing the reputation of whale watching as well as possibly having an impact on the conservation of the whales. Most whale watch locales of any size develop growing pains, though the Dominican Republic has certainly had a little more than its share. But these struggles have produced positive change and new ideas. The Dominican Republic has the potential to become a world class humpback whale watching centre, putting its unique brand on whale watching and promoting the local cultural experience. Within a few years, with a focusing of effort and continued improvement, the potential for doubling the existing numbers and economy based on whale watching is definitely there. As this report was being completed in early May, the announcement came that the DR government, after considerable national and international pressure, has decided to restore the 1996 marine mammal sanctuary (subsequently revoked in 1997) that had included not only Silver Bank, but Navidad Bank and the Samaná area. The new presidential decree designating the 'Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic' is No. 136-99. On May 5, 1999, the first meeting of the new Comisión para la Protección de los Mamíferos Marinos took place — a great and optimistic day for whale watching and whale conservation in the Caribbean.
Table 2. Numbers of excursions and whale watch visitors at Samaná (all 6 ports) by month for the year 1998
Jan. Feb. Mar. Total 1998
Number of boat excursions 249 662 372 1,283
Total w/w visitors 3,657 11,682 6,445 21,784
Courtesy: CEBSE statistics
Table 3. Number of boats, companies and capacity by port for Samaná Bay
Port: No. of boats Companies Capacity
Samaná 17 boats 9 companies 766 people
Plaza Simi Baez 8 boats 1 company 122
Las Galeras 3 boats 2 companies 32
Cayo Levantado 2 boats 2 companies 20
Carenero 3 boats 3 companies 29
Caleton 6 boats 5 companies 112
Adapted from CEBSE statistics for 1998.
Table 4. Estimates for numbers of whale watchers at Samaná Bay, 1991-1998
Whale Watching Guidelines for Samaná Bay, Dominican Republic
Whale watching guidelines in the Dominican Republic grew out of a Whale Tourism Workshop in 1992 organised by CEBSE, the Samaná-based NGO, and Centro de Investigaciones de Biologia Marina (CIBIMA), a scientific group working on humpback whales. In 1994, the guidelines were adopted by the boat owners conducting the whale watch tours, with the agreement of various sectors of the community involved with whale watching. However, partly due to lack of compliance, these original guidelines have recently been modified and expanded, and new provisions for monitoring have been put in place. As of 1998, CEBSE has been placed in charge of monitoring and coordinating the management of whale watching at Samaná, according to a co-management agreement signed by CEBSE, the Association of Boat Owners, the Natural Park Directorate, and the Tourism Ministry (CEBSE, Bonnelly de Calventi, Entrup, pers. comm.). Following are the 1999 whale watching guidelines:
1. No more than one large boat (greater than 30 ft/9 m) and 2 small boats (less than 30ft/9m and larger than 23 ft/7 m) are allowed to observe a whale or group of whales at the same time. Each whale watch vessel must have a permit from the National Parks Directorate (DNP).
2. Vessels must stay at least 270 feet (80 m) from a group of whales that includes a calf and 165 feet (50 m) from adult whales.
3. Vessels waiting to observe a whale or group of whales must maintain a distance of 1500 ft (500 m).
4. When a vessel reaches the regulated distance, the engine must be put in neutral, and it must wait. The engine must be left running at all times.
5. A vessel may not stay with a whale or group of whales for more than thirty minutes.
6. After passing Cayo Levantado, the velocity of the whale watching vessels should not exceed 5 knots (9 km/h). If a vessel encounters whales further into the Bay (before Cayo Levantado) its speed should be immediately lowered to 5 knots.
7. It is prohibited to swim or dive with the whales.
As part of the enforcement procedure, there is a licensing system regarding the vessels which are allowed to offer whale watching trips. The owners are responsible to work toward the guidelines mentioned above. Observed violations will be treated as follows:
• first violation — warning (noted by CEBSE)
• second violation — a possible one day prohibition to whale watch or fees of about 200 Pesos (less than $20 USD)
• third violation — losing the permit; but this depends on the kind of violation.
Whale Watching Regulations for Silver Bank Whale Sanctuary, Dominican Republic
The Intergovernmental Management Committee for the Silver Bank Marine Sanctuary (Comisión Rectora) is the institution responsible for the administration of the Silver Bank Sanctuary and for the protection of the humpback whales and other marine mammals (Decree No. 319, 1986) (Carlson 1998).
1.0 Visits to the Silver Bank Sanctuary
1.1. In order to visit the sanctuary for research, education, recreation (whale watching), sport fishing, or other purposes, all vessels must have a permit from the Sanctuary Committee. This permit must be authorized by the Executive Director and the Secretary of the Sanctuary Committee (see Internal Regulations of the Governing Committee).
1.2 The persons responsible for the vessel must fill in an application that includes information on the purpose of the visit, the time that will be spent in the Sanctuary, the number of passengers on the vessel, dates, as well as any specific activities included in the trip.
1.3 The application form can be obtained in the headquarters of the Sanctuary Committee as well as in the premises of the different Delegations of the Committee.
1.4 The vessels must display, in a visible place, a copy of their permit and the regulations of the Sanctuary Committee of the Silver Bank Humpback Whale sanctuary.
1.5 Given the case that the purpose of the visit is a research and/or study project, the visitor(s) must deliver a report of the activities and the results to the Sanctuary Committee, as well as a copy of any publication, video, etc. elaborated during the study.
1.6 The Sanctuary Committee will establish a visitation fee dictated by the Internal Regulations of the Committee.
1.7 The Sanctuary Committee may limit the number of vessels present simultaneously in the area.
1.8 The vessel that visits the Sanctuary for whale watching must, when possible, take on a representative of the Committee with the purpose of collaborating in whale research and conservation.
1.9 The use of the Polyxeni as lodging for people is not permitted.
1.10 The Port Authority will not dispatch any vessel to visit the Silver Bank Sanctuary if it lacks the permits of the Sanctuary Committee.
1.11 All vessels must attain to marine safety and navigational regulations predisposed by Dominican law.
2.0 Protective Measures for Whales and Other Marine Mammals in the Sanctuary
2.1 The capture, hurting, killing, persecution or harassment of any mammal is prohibited.
Note: It is understood that by harassment is meant any activity that affects the normal behaviour of the whales. This infers that the animal is being harassed when any sudden change occurs in its behaviour, such as:
a) radical changes in swimming direction
b) changes in breathing intervals
c) abandonment of area where first observed
d) evasive conduct
2.2 The discharge or deposition of any contaminants, explosives, or electrical equipment, as well as their use for fishing is prohibited.
2.3 The dredging, perforation, or any type of activity that disturbs the ocean floor, as well as the construction of any structure different to those used for auxiliary navigation, is prohibited without the corresponding permit from the Sanctuary
2.4 Flights of any nature cannot be made at heights under 300 m (1000 feet) when at a maximum horizontal distance of 300 m away from the whale.
2.5 Hydroplane landing is not permitted in any area where a whale is present.
2.6 Fishing activities by national vessels is permitted. Nets may not be used from November to May in the Sanctuary area as well as in the adjacent zones occupying a diameter of 10 nautical miles away from the limits of the Sanctuary.
3.0 Whale Watching Regulations
The Silver Bank is an important reproduction and weaning area for the North Atlantic humpback (Megaptera novaeangliae). The Sanctuary Committee has established a set of rules or regulations designed to protect this endangered species and to guarantee the security of the people interested in observing them.
3.1 Whale season. The humpback whale season extends every winter from December to April.
3.2 The vessels visiting the Sanctuary must obey the following regulations.
3.2.1 The vessel and/or their occupants must not come any closer than 50 m from where the whales are found, and less than 80 m when in the presence of mothers with their calves.
3.2.2 In the whale watching area, only one vessel may be observing the whales. The presence of various vessels together, be they small or large, confuse the whales.
3.2.3 Each vessel must not stay longer than thirty minutes with any given group of whales.
3.2.4 Each vessel must not make any sudden changes in direction and/or speed when near the whales.
3.2.5 No objects may be thrown into the water, and no unnecessary noise may be made when near the whales.
3.2.6 If the whales come closer than 100 m from the vessel, the motor must be put in neutral until the whales are seen receding from the vessel.
3.2.7 The vessel cannot interfere with the swimming direction or the natural behaviour of the whales. (Whales can leave their natural habitat if harassed).
3.2.8 If any vessel violates the regulations in any way, the Sanctuary Committee will ask the Fisheries Department of the Ministry of Agriculture and the Navy Secretariat Headquarters to retain their permit for fishing or access to the Sanctuary for a determined time period, and in the case the felony is repeated, to cancel the vessel's permit.
Note: The protection of the humpback whales will always be in effect while they are in Dominican waters.
Acknowledgments: Idelisa Bonnelly de Calventi (FUNDEMAR, Comisión Rectora), Niki Entrup, Carole Carlson, Kim Beddall, CEBSE, IFAW, WWF and WDCS 1997, special thanks to Kim, Monica and Patricia Lamelas for sending CEBSE's comprehensive report on whale watching for 1998, CTO 1997.
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