Economy January 25, 2024 | 11:25 am

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INTEC researchers assess economic value of Samaná Bay’s ecosystem

Santo Domingo.- A team of researchers from the Technological Institute of Santo Domingo (INTEC) is conducting a groundbreaking study on the Samaná Bay ecosystem, aiming to analyze the economic valuation of ecosystem services associated with the visits of humpback whales to this area of the Dominican Republic.

Led by Dr. Víctor Gómez-Valenzuela, an environmental economist and research professor at INTEC, the study involves university research professors Solhanlle Bonilla-Duarte and Katerin Ramírez. Additionally, doctoral students Ana Pou Espinal, Claudia Caballero González, and Ramón Roque Paulino, all from INTEC’s Environmental Sciences program, are participating as research assistants, developing their doctoral theses within the project.

The study focuses on understanding the primary ecosystem services provided by Samaná Bay and their correlation with humpback whales. It addresses crucial questions such as the main threats to the bay’s ecosystems, their impact on whales, the visit value of humpback whales, and how changes in the bay’s ecosystems affect whale visitation and can be addressed. Answers to these questions are pivotal for planning and managing the bay’s ecosystems, shaping policies and programs in alignment with Sustainable Development Goal 14 on coastal-marine ecosystems.

The project employs analytical methods such as contingent valuation and travel cost, along with geospatial study techniques to assess the health of the bay’s ecosystems. It also includes an analysis of natural resource governance to enhance ecosystem and resource management.

Funded by the National Fund for Scientific and Technological Research (FONDOCyT) of the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, and Technology (MESCyT), the project collaborates with organizations like the Center for the Ecodevelopment of Samaná Bay and its Environment (CEBSE).

Gómez-Valenzuela emphasized the need to protect Samaná Bay, as humpback whales migrate thousands of kilometers from the North Atlantic to its warm waters. He highlighted that these marine mammals are not merely tourists but essential participants in their life cycle, contributing to the dynamism of national and international tourism.

Whales, as marine mammals with a social life, interact with family groups, other marine mammal species like dolphins, and the entire surrounding ecosystem. Their presence serves as a bioindicator of the quality of Samaná Bay’s ecosystem services.

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