The Maine Lobstermen’s Association (MLA) is proud to announce that Amber-Jean Nickel of Falmouth will be the MLA’s first chief operating officer. “We are really excited to have someone of Amber-Jean’s experience and skills join the MLA staff,” said Kristen Porter, MLA president. “The MLA has done so much with an extremely small staff. Adding her talents will be a great boost to our efforts.”
“I have so much respect for Maine lobstermen,” Nickel said. “The fishery is an iconic part of Maine. To be a part of it is an honor and fills my work with purpose.”
Nickel comes from a military family and lived in many parts of the country growing up. Her first introduction to lobster was on a trip with her grandmother, who loved to visit the state and introduced her to the coast.
Her family eventually moved to Maine, where she completed high school at Mt. Ararat in Topsham. “My first job was at a store in South Harpswell. Lobstermen would start their day there getting coffee and snacks then end it there when they came in for pizza or a wrap,” she recalled.
In 2006 Nickel found her career niche at Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co., based in Topsham. The business, which produces value-added lobster items, was founded by Cal Hancock in 2000. The company’s lobster products quickly won attention from customers and awards from the Specialty Food Association. Nickel was the Director of Operations and Marketing just as the company was starting its rapid growth. Through the years she became involved in many of the planning aspects of that growth, and was responsible for customer service, marketing and web presence for the company.
After ten years, Nickel left to explore other opportunities that helped her develop new skills focused in communications, financial management and community partnerships. She returned to Hancock Gourmet Lobster Co. in 2018 when she served as the company’s General Manager for two years before becoming Chief Executive Officer in 2020. Cal Hancock sold the company to Ready Seafood in 2019.
When asked what she brings to her new position at the MLA, Nickel is quick to answer: “I am very organized and I am good at setting plans and goals and then working out the details to make them happen.” Such skills will be put to good use as the MLA continues its ongoing efforts to end National Marine Fisheries Service’s regulatory over-reach of the lobster fishery and prevent the implementation of a flawed plan that would extinguish the Maine fishery while doing little to protect endangered North Atlantic right whales.
“There’s always a moment in any organization or business when you have to pause and assess so that when you take your next step, you are ready for it. I’m excited to help the MLA take that step so it can continue to successfully lead Maine’s lobster industry through these extremely challenging times,” Nickel said.