The Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic

The Silver Bank is part of the much larger Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic. The Sanctuary encompasses not only the shallower calving and breeding grounds of the Silver Bank, Navidad Bank and Samana Bay, but also all of the deeper ocean waters between, which are heavily traveled migration routes for whales headed to other parts of the Caribbean.

In the above map, the area marked in dark blue shows the territorial waters of the Dominican Republic; the green shows the waters of the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals; and in light blue, the “Banco de la Plata” is the Silver Bank.

On October 14, 1986, the Dominican Republic recognized the vital importance of the Silver Bank by establishing the Silver Bank Sanctuary. Ten years later the Dominican Republic strengthened that commitment on July 5, 1996, when a presidential decree enlarged the Sanctuary to its current size and renamed it the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals of the Dominican Republic.

As part of the Sanctuary, all activity on the Silver Bank must adhere to strict guidelines set forth by the office of the Sub-Secretariat of Protected Areas & Biodiversity of the Dominican Republic, and overseen by the on-site Coordinator of the Silver Bank. Among other things, these guidelines limit the number of vessels on the Silver Bank. In fact, during the whale season no vessel may visit the Silver Bank without a permit. As a guest of Conscious Breath Adventures you will be traveling into this humpback whale habitat with an authorized holder of one of only three permits issued. This limits the total number of guests on the Silver Bank to no more than 54 a week, around 500 in an entire season. The low numbers help protect the whales from excessive contact, but an added benefit for the guest is that it also eliminates crowding.

Typically the daily excursions aboard our whale boats range 3-5 miles from the anchorage, often much less. This leaves the vast majority of the Sanctuary completely undisturbed. It also means that on a planet with a human population of 7 billion, visitors to the Silver Bank are part of a very very small percentage of people fortunate enough to experience one of the natural wonders of the world.

In the Sanctuary there are specific regulations which govern the conduct of the larger vessels with regards to safety protocols, designated anchorage, maximum speed of operation, and more. There are also guidelines for whale boat approach and surface whale watching which define harassment, and dictate the speed and direction of approach and travel in proximity to the whales and other operators. The rules also set forth the accepted technique for in-water encounters with the whales, referred to as a Soft-In-Water Encounter. The guidelines also ensure that all the operators in the Sanctuary operate in a consistent manner, with an emphasis on communication and cooperation. This ensures that everyone on the Silver Bank safeguards the integrity of the Sanctuary and the humpback whales, and that all actions are governed not just by the letter of the law, but by the spirit of the Sanctuary itself.

Protection and Conservation

By establishing the Sanctuary for the Marine Mammals, the Dominican Republic has continued a decades long progression of environmental conservation and protection. With regards to marine mammals, the Dominican Republic has taken a leading role among Caribbean Basin nations. At a time when some Caribbean nations are quietly supporting the resumption of commercial whaling while publicly advertising themselves as whale watching destinations, the Dominican Republic proudly confirms its commitment to these gentle giants by maintaining this Sanctuary.