A longtime Maryland official and advocate of limits on blue-crab fishing in the Chesapeake Bay was fired this week after watermen critical of the limits met with Gov. Larry Hogan (R).
The ouster Tuesday of Brenda Davis, a 28-year-veteran of Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources, was first reported by the Chesapeake Bay Journal. Davis was the crab program manager for DNR, which sets limits on how large crabs must be to harvest — at least five inches between April and July.
Some watermen who disapproved of those limits recently met with Hogan and questioned the limits, the Journal reported and The Washington Post confirmed.
Hogan has criticized some of the state’s restrictions on fishing, which he has called a “war on watermen,” but it is not clear whether he opposes the five-inch requirement or whether the watermen asked him to fire Davis.
The governor’s office declined to comment on Davis, and a DNR spokesman said the department does not comment on personnel matters.
“The department places the highest emphasis on enhancing and improving customer engagement and service as well as science-based conservation and management of our environment and natural resources,” DNR spokesman Stephen E. Schatz wrote in an email.
One waterman who met with Hogan declined to discuss the meeting with The Post. Others were not immediately available for comment.
Davis said she is unsure why she was terminated. She said her performance evaluations were all “very good,” but she noted that she is employed at-will and could be fired at any time.
“There’s a lot of speculation,” she said, including about whether the decision to fire her was related to recent attempts by some watermen to ease size limits on crab fishing.
The blue crab has rebounded since the 1990s, when the population in the bay reached critical levels, and Davis said the state’s blue crab program was “a little ahead of the curve” in including the fishing industry in decision-making.
Not all watermen were critical of Davis’s tenure.
“She’s, as far as I knew, a good employee and did a great job,” said Billy Rice, chairman of the DNR’s Tidal Fisheries Advisory Commission. “. . . I was surprised about her dismissal.”
After almost three decades with DNR, Davis said she is unsure what she will do next.
“I’m open to suggestions,” she said.