What are the regulations protecting starfish in the Dominican Republic?

Starfish can be found on the beaches of the Dominican Republic, but their numbers have declined over time due to exploitation and inadvertent human treatment. Contrary to popular belief, starfish are echinoderms closely related to sea urchins, not fish. The body of the starfish is riddled with anomalies, including the absence of a brain and blood.

Where can you find starfish in the Dominican Republic?

Starfish in the Dominican Republic can be seen on a number of natural beaches, although they are usually located in areas that are not particularly popular with visitors. Some of the best places to see starfish in their natural habitat are around Saona Island. In the area around Saona Island you can find starfish, although they are becoming scarcer over time; today there are only three or four, whereas there used to be many. This is because the starfish have sought out deeper water to avoid being disturbed by humans.

Do not take the starfish out of the water

To breathe, starfish take their oxygen from the sea. When starfish are removed from their aquatic habitat, their dermal gills are adapted to absorb the oxygen available in the water, and they are unable to perform the gas exchange for their life cycles, resulting in poisoning. In general, they risk perishing, or “drowning”, if exposed to carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide for a prolonged period. In human terms, this is equivalent to drowning your lungs in water in order to take a souvenir photo. Some visitors take the starfish out of the water to photograph them.

Is it allowed to touch a starfish?

Although you should not take them out of the water, you can touch them in the water with your hands. These starfish are neither poisonous nor venomous, and they are completely peaceful animals. There are hundreds of starfish on the planet; those in the Caribbean area, which includes the Dominican Republic, are known as Oreaster reticulatus” or “red cushion starfish”. They are not soft-skinned, but rather rigid, as if they were made of plastic, although they are living creatures. You can put them in your hand, in the sea, and handle them with care, as they are living organisms that can be stressed.