Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

U.S. border patrol stop Canadian fishermen in disputed waters off Maine

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Doris Mccormick | 08 July, 2018, 11:16

In a Facebook post, Laurence Cook-a member of Grand Manan Fishermen's Association-alleged that in a June 24 boat check, U.S. Border Patrol agents said they were "looking for illegal immigrants".

The waters that surround the island, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, in the Gulf of ME are also disputed.

Global Affairs confirmed that Canada is looking into "these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with USA agencies involved in the matter".

Canada's foreign affairs department said that it had heard about two stops in late June involving Border Patrol officers and had asked the USA government for an explanation.

After American fishermen came forward to say that their boats were also being intercepted by border patrol agents, the association said in a statement that they understood the incidents to be "part of a regular exercise being conducted along the United States marine border".

"The U.S. Border Patrol does not board Canadian vessels in the gray zone without consent or probable cause, and agents only conduct interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it", said Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for Customs and Border Protection, which operates the border agency.

According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the US vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".

"Canada's sovereignty over the area is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", the post said.

The agents claimed to be looking for undocumented immigrants, he said.

"Typical American bullies", Cook wrote in the June 25 post, asserting that the Canadian vessels were rightly fishing in Canadian water.

Ties between Canada and the United States have been strained since President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, citing USA national security, with Trump calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "very dishonest" and "weak" after a spat at the G7 meeting in Quebec last month.

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Machias Seal Island is between New Brunswick and ME and has been the subject of a territorial dispute between Canada and the USA for decades.

According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the U.S. vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".

But the United States has never relinquished its claim on the island.

Like previously stated the island is in a grey area of the border but both Canadian and American fishermen work around the island.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

She said there had been 21 Canadian vessels interviewed by agents in the sector so far this fiscal year "with no immigration arrests".

In 40 years fishing off ME, this is the first time he can remember Border Patrol operating offshore like this, Drouin said.

Federal law gives Border Patrol the authority to stop, search and examine any vehicle entering the USA including those in a maritime environment, Malin said. "Canadian fishermen are being harassed by US border patrol".

Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the U.S. has recently begun monitoring more closely.

Grand Manan is a Canadian island in the Gulf of ME, right near the border between the United States and Canada.

"Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the United States to ensure that the area is well managed", Babcock said. Tension over fishing rights in the area can get heated when the price of lobster is high, leading to threats and accusations of line-cutting and other sabotage.

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