The Samana Bay is one of the largest estuaries in the Caribbean and is an important sanctuary for humpback whales. The bay is fed by the Dominican Republic’s largest river, the Yuna River which is 208 km long.
The bay and the surrounding waters of the Samana peninsula contain small islands, shoals, patches of coral formation, and extensive seagrass beds. This area is also home to green, hawksbill and leatherback sea turtles as well as the West Indian manatee.
Due to nutrient-rich waters supplied by the outflow of the Yuna and Barracote rivers, the bay possesses ideal nursery conditions that can sustain large populations of commercially valuable shrimp, oysters, and fish.
Fishing and deforestation have led to excessive topsoil and silt in the Samana bay. There is a large human demand for freshwater in coastal areas and this should be met while safeguarding the health of rivers and coastal ecosystems.
The flow of the Yuna River is also diverted to Hatillo Dam for human consumption, irrigation and electricity production. The watershed is affected by agricultural and mineral waste, high temperatures and other forms of contamination.
The Conservancy is assisting local communities and governments assess and manage changes in the volumes and quality of inflows of freshwater to estuaries. The process will use science-based methods and information designed to forecast the potential outcomes of this form of ecosystem change.
The project is an initiative of the USAID Water Team and the University of Rhode Island Coastal Resources Center (URICRC) through The Nature Conservancy. Conservancy scientists have developed a collaborative process to create an “ecosystem flow prescription” that defines the river flow conditions necessary to restore or protect river and estuarine ecosystems.
The Conservancy is working with local conservation groups such as Centro para la Conservacion y el Eco-desarrollo de la Bahia de Samana (CEBSE) to create community involvement and foster open discussions with stakeholders.