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Island chamber continues to advocate for business community

By Staff | Jan 25, 2019

PHOTO PROVIDED Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce President John Lai, second from left, sits on a panel with Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel, third from left, and other experts at the 34th annual Everglades Coalition Conference.

The Sanibel and Captiva Islands Chamber of Commerce continues to be a part of the fight to save local ecosystem and tourism economy as an advocate on behalf of the islands’ business community.

Over the summer, two concurrent harmful algae blooms precipitated an unprecedented fish kill and nearly destroyed the tourism economy.

“It quickly became clear that we, as a chamber, had to do something and felt advocacy is the best thing we can do,” President John Lai, who has traveled to Tallahassee on numerous occasions and was part of a panel at the 34th annual Everglades Coalition Conference in January, said.

He has been presenting data on the economic impact of the water crisis to the islands’ businesses, which collectively reported millions of dollars in lost revenue. Poor water quality remains a threat to the $3 billion in annual revenue generated by local tourism.

“The health of our ecosystem and economy are inextricably linked,” Lai said.

Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation Natural Resource Policy Director Rae Ann Wessel has been an advocate on behalf of the unbalanced ecosystem. She has presented data collected by SCCF’s marine scientists and was present when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order implementing water policy reforms.

“It’s important we continue to share the adverse economic effect of poor water quality, as well as advocate for these water protection policies and the restoration of the Everglades,” Lai said. “We are grateful to have leaders like Rae Ann, and many others, who help bring changes necessary to protect the natural resources on which our economy and quality of life depend.”

Lai will be a part of the Visit Florida Conference in Tampa, where there will be a meeting with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. He will travel to Tallahassee twice in February for legislative meetings and will be in Orlando for the quarterly board meeting of the Florida Association of Chamber Professionals. In March and April, Lai will return to Tallahassee for Florida Tourism Days and the Everglades Action Days.

“It has been and continues to be an honor representing our island business community as a whole,” he said. “Our chamber board of directors deserves a tremendous amount of thanks for their support in this crucial fight.”