U.S. border patrol questioned fishermen on Canadian waters

Cristina Cross
July 8, 2018

"What caused that? You'll have to talk to border patrol". Machias Seal Island, a small low-lying island with a lighthouse manned and maintained by the Canadian government, lies about 12 miles southwest of the Canadian island of Grand Manan and 12 miles southeast of the ME village of Cutler.

Drouin said the area has been "inundated" with Canadian lobster fishermen since 2002.

It was not immediately clear what happened during the stops, or how they compare to previous USBP activity in the area.

A former American diplomat to Canada says the episodes late last month underscore the need for the two countries to settle their quarrel over the so-called "grey zone" surrounding the island before it erupts into violence. "Law Enforcement at the Border is doing a great job, but the laws they are forced to work with are insane". "Why wait until it becomes something uglier?"

Laurence Cook of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said in a personal posting on Facebook that, in a June 24 boat check off the Machias Seal Island "grey zone" in late June, Border Patrol agents claimed "to be looking for illegal immigrants ..." USA law allows such immigration enforcement actions to be conducted anywhere within 100 miles of the border.

The association said it has enjoyed a respectful and cordial relationship with its US counterparts.

"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", Cook said in an interview.

Lawrence Book, chair of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, said the agents were looking for migrants without the required documentation to enter the United States. The agency has not disclosed how many stops have been made.

"Typical American bullies ... not surprised to see the Americans trying to push people around", Cook wrote.

Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the United States of America has recently begun monitoring more closely.

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

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In recent days, the dispute has reached a crucial stage, beginning with a Facebook post on June 25, in which a Canadian fisherman claimed that U.S. Facebook post tried to stop one of the fishermen at the location.

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 sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", Babcock said in an email to CBC News.

On Wednesday, New Brunswick Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet told the National Post that he has heard multiple reports of armed U.S. Border Patrol agents boarding lobster boats to look for immigrants.

US Customs and Border Protection confirmed that they've stopped 21 Canadian vessels off the coast of ME this year, but made no immigration arrests. "The last thing Canada wants is for Donald Trump to seize on this as an example of USA sovereignty being challenged". "It wasn't just in the gray zone".

With America putting its focus on strengthing the borders, Canada and Machias Seal Island are now being monitored. The dispute is over the ocean encircling it and the lobster lurking beneath the waves. Their counterparts in Canada mostly stayed off in the distance, setting cages during the winter around the coast of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland. An American lobsterman had his thumb ripped off in 2007 while disentangling equipment during a clash with a Canadian. "Absolutely overkill", Doucet told the Post.

However, both countries claim jurisdiction over Machias Seal Island, which is occupied by two Canadian lightkeepers at its lighthouse.

He has argued that Canada and the US should submit the disagreement to arbitration at the world court.

Cook, in fact, said border agents have stopped at least 10 fishing boats over the past two weeks.

The sovereignty issue could be sidestepped, for instance, in place of a formal agreement on sharing the area's seafood stocks, he said.

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