Humpback whale season begins in Samaná with strict protocols
The whale watching season starts next January 15 and ends March 31, as is customary, so it is estimated that between 1,500 and 2,000 humpback whales migrate to Dominican waters each year, specifically to the Marine Mammal Sanctuary, which includes the banks of La Plata and La Navidad, to the north, as the Bay of Samaná.
However, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Ministry of the Environment has established a protocol and regulations for the realization of the recreational activity that includes that operators and/or visitors will receive a payment receipt from the ministry and only a maximum of 2 unique boats per day will be authorized, according to Diario Libre.
2. The observation schedule is from 8:00 in the morning to 4:00 in the afternoon (varies according to the presidential decrees)
3. All vessels operating in the observation areas must have a communication radio with them.
4. The single boats’ permit is valid for three (3) hours in the Sanctuary.
5. Only three (3) vessels will be allowed to observe, regardless of their length, on a first-come, first-served basis.
6. Vessels waiting must maintain a distance of 250 meters behind the vessels under observation. They must wait in groups of three (3).
7. When arriving at a distance of 250 meters from the whale or group of whales, they must reduce their speed until they reach the observation distance. When reaching the observation distance, the boats shall place their motors in neutral.
8. It is forbidden to turn off the boats’ engines for safety reasons.
9. The distance between the boats and the whales will be 270 feet (80 meters), in the case of the mother and the calf, for the other whales, 165 feet (50 meters).
10. The speed of the whale-watching boats shall be moderate, according to the maritime conditions.
11. A boat cannot stay longer than 30 minutes with a group of whales in the observation area and 20 minutes with a mother and calf. When there are few whales, at the beginning or end of the season, this time is reduced to 15 minutes.
12. No boat will allow its passengers to enter the water with whales. It is strictly forbidden to swim and/or dive with whales.
13. Boats less than 30 feet long must force their passengers to wear life jackets.
14. Whale watching is not allowed from helicopters, airplanes, or light aircraft. Aircraft must not fly lower than 1000 meters while maintaining a maximum horizontal distance of 1000 meters from the whale. Aircraft must not fly directly over the whales and/or dolphins.
15. The use of drones is only allowed under the previous authorization from the Ministry.
16. The use of the headband is mandatory.