Capt. Robert Newberry, chairman of Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc., organized the meeting, along with members of the DFA board of directors. (Photo by CONNIE CONNOLLY / KPVI News 6)

MD - Watermen form Shore-wide caucus

EASTON — With the appointment of a well-known environmental leader to the top natural resources position in Annapolis, Eastern Shore watermen decided it’s time to gear up to defend their livelihoods.

About 50 commercial fishermen, along with a handful of local lawmakers, formed the nucleus of the new Eastern Shore Watermen’s Caucus to fund lobbying efforts in Annapolis and educate the public.

The DFA board proposed creating a war chest to fortify their lobbying efforts and garnered unanimous support from those who attended a meeting Sunday morning, Jan. 29, at Talbot County Community Center in Easton.

Queen Anne’s County waterman and farmer Robert Newberry, chairman of Delmarva Fisheries Association Inc., organized the meeting, along with members of the DFA board of directors.

Attending the two-hour meeting were Sen. Johnny Mautz, R-37; Del. Chris Adams, R-37B, chair of the Eastern Shore delegation; Del. Tom Hutchinson, R-37B; Queen Anne’s County Commissioner Phil Dumenil; Talbot County Council member Lynn Mielke; and Easton Town Council member Al Silverstein, who is President-elect of the Eastern Shore Association of Municipalities.

Leaders of watermen associations in Kent, Queen Anne’s, Talbot and Dorchester counties also attended.

Concerns about the new administration’s potential policies as well as the appointment of Josh Kurtz, Maryland Executive Director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, as Secretary of the Department of Natural Resources, prompted Newberry to invite watermen to form the caucus.

Newberry said he was the only representative of the transition team representing “the natural resources … out of 1,300 people, and I’ll be honest with you, I don’t think we got much done on the transition team, other than getting the word heard about the natural resources and also with agriculture. That was basically not a big issue. So the two biggest industries in the state were not important to this transition team.”

According to Newberry, Kurtz accepted the trade association’s invitation to join the meeting, and Newberry published the response on social media. He said Kurtz “backed out of” the invitation late Friday afternoon, Jan. 27.

“He confirmed in an email to me that he was going to attend. He put it on his schedule. He looked forward to it, and I put a very nice letter together saying that we’ve got to work together to make the Chesapeake Bay a better place for not only the industry, but all citizens of the state. And he agreed.”

According to Newberry, Kurtz could only attend the meeting if he were accompanied by the governor’s deputy chief of staff.

“I’ve never really seen that happen before,” Newberry said. “With this administration, we’re probably going to see a lot of things we’ve never seen happen before.”

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