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The Maine Lobstermen's Association Welcomes New Staff

The increasing work load due to complex issues such as new whale regulations and expanding offshore wind development have led the Maine Lobstermen's Assocation (MLA) to nearly double its staff. This month the MLA welcomes Kevin Kelley and Nathaniel Burola to the crew.

Kevin Kelley, director of advancement

The Maine Lobstermen’s Association’s (MLA) new advancement director always understood where he ultimately wanted to be. “I knew I wanted to come home,” said Kevin Kelley, a native of Damariscotta. His route led him from the small midcoast town where he and his two brothers grew up as the sons of a local lobsterman to the heady environment of Washington, D.C. Kelley graduated from the University of Maine with a journalism degree in 1992 and quickly moved into the world of television news. He worked as a news reporter and substitute anchor at WLBZ in Bangor and WCSH in Portland for 12 years before becoming Maine bureau chief for New England Cable News (NECN) in 2004. He then was hired by Senator Susan Collins as her communications director. “I moved to D.C. in 2005 a real politics novice,” Kelley recalled. “Everything was new and eyepopping in Washington. I gained a lot of respect for civil servants in government. They work very hard and a lot is asked of them.” The pace of Washington, which to those outside government seems glacial, proved the opposite for newcomer Kelley. “People criticize government because it seems to move so slowly, but I found that it actually moves really quickly. It’s change that is slow,” he said. Kelley later took a position as the staff director for the U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging where Collins’ served as chairman until becoming her deputy campaign manager in 2019. He and his family moved to Ogunquit for the campaign and, after Senator Collin’s reelection in November, “stayed put. I didn’t want to go back to Washington,” Kelley explained. The MLA’s advertisement for an advancement director caught Kelley’s eye immediately. “I was looking for a new challenge, something that would make a difference to my home state and to the industry that has given me a lot,” he said. Kelley’s father did not encourage his three sons as they were growing up to pursue lobstering in part, Kelley said, “because he thought there were easier ways to make a living.” Still, lobstering and the values that are imbued in the fishery are something that Kelley understands well. His nephew currently works as sternman for his father. Kelley’s time in Washington taught him that issues at the federal level always affect individuals at a personal level. The situation facing Maine lobstermen today is a case in point. The rule recently released by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) will close a vast area of federal waters to lobstermen from October to January each year. The new Biological Opinion, published in May, will impose increasingly strict measures on lobstermen over the next ten years, fundamentally changing the fishery. “In order for the MLA to survive and thrive and for the industry to be here for the state in the future, it will be my job to help people understand that we are all in this together. The Maine lobster fishery means so much for this state. My challenge will be to convince the greater public of its importance,” Kelley said. He anticipates that he will spend the next several months asking questions of those active in the fishery and expanding his understanding in order to better understand the complex issues. And his father? “My dad is proud. To have the opportunity to make a difference so that the lobster fishery will be available for my nephew, his children, and other families in the future is extraordinary,” Kelley said.

Nathaniel Burola, MLA policy specialist

Nathaniel Burola knows numbers. With a graduate degree in environmental science and management and an interest in marine science, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association’s new policy specialist worked for the past year for the Ocean Associates Inc. analyzing the interaction of whales and Dungeness crab fishermen along the West Coast. But it’s not just numbers that interests Burola. “Maine lobstermen depend on the fishery for their livelihoods. I want to work with the fishermen. It’s important to recognize that people can’t lose their jobs because of environmental protection efforts,” he said. Burola was raised by parents who worked in international development, growing up first in a suburb of Cairo, Egypt, then later in Cambodia. Adapting to different cultures became part of his life. His parents encouraged him to study STEM subjects in school. In sixth grade he asked his teacher what field might be good for him to pursue. The answer was ‘environmental science.’ Eventually Burola moved to California for college. “My undergraduate advisor was involved in marine science and asked me if I wanted to do research with her. So I did,” Burola said. Over time, as he moved on to a Master’s degree at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Burola found himself studying everything from mussels and kelp to oysters and whales. “I always wanted to go out in the field. But I realized that if you want to be a scientist you need to have some skill with modelling, statistics, and so forth. Environmental data science is a big marketable skill,” he said. Burola’s latest project involved modelling whale hot spots, places where whales aggregate, over time in Monterey Bay against Dungeness crab fishing areas. “We used data from 1990 to 2020 and tracked how those hot spots shifted. That was then overlaid against where Dungeness crab traps were set to see the interaction.” The hot spots moved as the climate in the area changed over the thirty-year time span and water temperatures altered. He was attracted to the newly-created MLA position because of the similarities to the situation on the West coast. “The work I’ve been doing directly parallels what the lobster fishery is facing. Right now I’m on the federal side of the fence, producing data for the Southwest Fisheries Science Center. I want to work with fishermen. This job is exactly what I’ve been looking for.”

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