Dominican Republic sees growth in whale and tourist numbers

Authorities in the Dominican Republic have noted an increase in the number of humpback whales that make landfall in the country’s waters at this time of year, as well as an increase in the number of tourists who come to see the whales.

Currently, an estimated 3,000 whales visit Samaná Bay and the Banco de la Plata y Navidad, a shallow water area in the north of the Dominican Republic, each year during the breeding and mating season, which runs from January 15 to March 31.

However, scientists lack exact data, since sonar is not used to prevent the emission of electro-acoustic waves from disturbing the whales, so they rely exclusively on naked eye observation to make their calculations.

Last year, 605 whales were sighted in Samaná Bay alone, not counting the sanctuary’s open sea zones, and 18 calves were born, while this year there are already 7 calves.

The recovery of the whales is due to the protection policies adopted by the international authorities, as well as to the “no harassment” regulations applied in the Dominican Republic, said to Efe the administrator of the marine sanctuary, Israel Santana.

It is estimated that at least 80% of North Atlantic humpback whales, from Canada to Norway, travel to the Dominican Republic to mate or to give birth to calves in the warm waters and shelter from predators in Samana Bay.

Not all the whales make the trip annually, since they cannot feed in Dominican waters, according to experts.

The country has had a whale-watching structure in place since 1985, Environment Minister Orlando Jorge Mera told Efe, who valued the “unique opportunity” enjoyed by visitors to see the whales in Samaná.

In that first year, 60 tourists saw the whale dance, in 2021 there were 33,000 people and this year, before reaching the middle of the season, 32,000 have already been counted, a figure that allows to predict that the rhythm of tourists is recovering before the pandemic.

From the boat, tourists get to see the whales with their calves coming up to the surface to breathe, flippers or even the nose of a whale approaching the boats.

Those who are luckier can also see the spectacular jumps of the males, in an attempt to attract the attention of the females to dispute the right to mate.

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