Canada investigating after U.S. border agents approach fishermen

Sunday, 08 Jul, 2018

In a Facebook post, the Association's Chair said the US officials claimed they were "looking for illegal immigrants" and that border officials have stopped at least ten fishing boats in the past two weeks. Both countries have claimed sovereign jurisdiction over the island and historically American and Canadian fisherman have worked in the contested waters side by side.

ME fishermen report being stopped and asked for identification and some boats have reportedly been boarded by Border Patrol agents. As well, the group suggested the actions of the US agents may have been routine.

John Drouin, a lobsterman from Cutler and chairman of the Lobster Zone A Council, said Border Patrol has been cruising along the Down East coast from Cutler to Jonesport.

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

But Drouin said the bigger issue is Canadian use of the zone. He said he found the Border Patrol operation "entirely farcical".

The stops have been inconvenient, but he doesn't feel harassed, Drouin added.

"I asked him what they're up to and they said, 'We're just documenting who's in the area, ' " recalled Drouin. They declined to specify how many of these were fishing vessels.

Relations between Canada and the United States continue to deteriorate.

A spokesperson from the Customs and Border Protection agency commented on the incidents, saying that it is a "regular exercise being conducted along the US marine border", according to the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The scope of the Border Patrol activity, as well as what motivated it and what, if anything, it has uncovered, is not clear.

"We are in a different time and Border Patrol is patrolling..."

Primarily inhabited by nesting puffins, the islands of North Rock and Machias Seal remain the only disputed lands between U.S. and Canada, with both claiming sovereign jurisdiction over the islands and their surrounding waters.

"It's just a small part of a huge sea change in the way Canada is interacting with the US and vice versa, especially with the trade issue", Mills said. The disputed area covers about 277 square miles. The Border Patrol described the encounters in the Atlantic as "regular patrol operations to enforce immigration laws". "Law Enforcement at the Border is doing a great job, but the laws they are forced to work with are insane". "We are concerned that they are out of control".

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"Sometimes doing nothing is better", he said.

Canada is investigating incidents of U.S. patrol boats straying into waters it claims as its own and approaching Canadian fishing vessels.

In a Facebook post on June 25, Cook said Border Patrol stopped a fisherman in the area, who told them he was a Canadian legally fishing in Canadian waters.

"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", Cook said Wednesday, the Star reported.

The US border patrol has been accused of "bullying" Canadian fishing vessels in the seas near ME amid tensions between the countries over US President Donald Trump's trade tariffs.

"We understand that a few Grand Manan fishermen were approached United States Border Patrol during the month of June".

"We have enjoyed a respectful and cordial relationship with our USA counterparts".

A representative for the association did not respond to an interview request Thursday.

Canada is contacting United States agencies about the encounters, said John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", Global Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid told the CBC in an email. "Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the U.S.to ensure that the area is well‎ managed".

Visitors head to Machias Seal Island on in June 2016.

A long determined neutral zone between Canadian and American fishermen has become the latest display of the rising tensions between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. Additionally, Malin said that Border Patrol agents would not board any vessel without permission or probable cause.