By Wendy Osher
The Molokai Chamber of Commerce today issued a statement in support of a cruise company that has encountered protests in recent weeks from a small group of residents.
“The Molokai Chamber supports all business & tourism that compliments our unique lifestyle and we understand the vital role it plays in our community,” said Robert Stephenson, President of the Maui Chamber of Commerce.
The American Safari Cruises ship was turned away during a scheduled stop on Saturday after being greeted by a water blockade consisting of about 14 people on small boats and surfboards.
The group of protesters are seeking community input on decisions over tourism on the island; and have expressed concerns over the effects of the cruise industry on the island lifestyle.
Meantime, a small group of supporters also gathered during the Saturday’s planned visit, holding signs saying “Welcome to Molokai,” and sharing messages of aloha.
Supporters of the operation say the cruise supports local business by utilizing island products and services, and helps to address the historically high unemployment rate on the island.
“When there is interference with lawful commerce it can set a precedent that may have significant consequences to a fragile economy like ours,” said Stephenson in the emailed statement today.
American Safari Cruises CEO, Dan Blanchard is expected to be in attendance at a community meeting planned for 6 p.m. on Wednesday, November 30, at the Mitchell Pauole Center.
Company officials said they planned to provide comment upon the conclusion of Wednesday’s meeting.