U.S. Border Patrol says it won't stop checking Canadian fishing vessels

US Border Patrol Agents Have Been Illegally Invading Canadian Waters featured image

US Border Patrol Agents Have Been Illegally Invading Canadian Waters featured image

The last remaining land-border dispute between Canada and the United States has come to a boil again after US patrol vessels reportedly stopped and boarded Canadian fishing boats in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island, a windblown outcrop between New Brunswick and Maine.

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 ..." The island sits in a a body of water that is disputed territory between the United States and Canada that in recent years has caused friction between Canadian and American lobsterman over who has the right to fish there.

On July 4th, the Grand Manan Fisherman's Association released a statement about the issue on social media, saying that the waters are Canadian and that the organization is working with the government to make sure the fishermen can continue business as normal. "Our understanding is that this was a part of a regular exercise being conducted along the US marine border".

Machias Seal Island, a 20-acre island home to a Canadian lighthouse, no permanent human residents, and lots of puffins, has been claimed by both countries since the early 19th century.

The contested area begins about five kilometers southwest of New Brunswick's Grand Manan and is known as the "grey zone", according to the news service.

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

The dispute over the Gray Zone around Machias Seal Island traces back to the period following the American Revolutionary War.

"Typical American bullies ... not surprised to see the Americans trying to push people around", Cook wrote. The island lies about 10 miles offshore between the Gulf of ME and the Bay of Fundy.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is longstanding and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", he said in a statement.

The U.S. Border Patrol, which is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, declined to comment and referred all inquiries to the U.S. State Department, which did not respond to a request for an interview.

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

"Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with USA agencies involved in the matter", she said.

According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the USA vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters". "The last thing Canada wants is for Donald Trump to seize on this as an example of US sovereignty being challenged".

With America putting its focus on strengthing the borders, Canada and Machias Seal Island are now being monitored. But once they are in the same waters, it becomes almost impossible to determine at a glance whether the fishing boats are Canadian or American.

Fishermen from ME and New Brunswick - and sometimes Nova Scotia - have generally competed peacefully for the resource, but tensions do flare.

According to Cohen, those seeking to cross the Canada-U.S. border illegally are usually pushing north.

Drouin, a member of Maine's lobster advisory council, said he witnessed three other vessels that were also stopped and questioned, and has seen several Border Patrol vessels in the area over the last month.

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