Border Patrol Questions Canadian Fishing Fleet

Machias Seal Island is roughly 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan and 16 kilometres from the coast of Maine

Machias Seal Island is roughly 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan and 16 kilometres from the coast of Maine

The Canadian government is investigating reports Canadian boats have been approached and questioned by US border patrol agents in the gulf of ME last month.

But this summer that camaraderie has been threatened, Canadian fishermen claim, as officers with the U.S. Border Patrol have started to wade into the area, pull up aside their vessels and ask about their citizenship. The island lies about 10 miles offshore between the Gulf of ME and the Bay of Fundy.

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

USA officials told CBC News in a statement that the border agents were in the area to "enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law".

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. embassy in Ottawa were not available for comment due to the Independence Day holiday in the United States.

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 Grey Zone consists of about 700 square kilometres of lucrative lobster waters surrounding Machias Seal Island, and has been claimed by both Canada and the US for decades.

Drouin said his two sons were also recently stopped when they were fishing in the contentious area around Machias Seal Island, which is about 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan Island and east of Maine.

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"Absolutely overkill", he said of the "disturbing" stops. It's not known how many of those were fishing vessels.

Drouin said he believed Canadians were overreacting to the Border Patrol stops. The island itself is of little value; however, the surrounding waters are home to an increasingly valuable lobster catch.

It's possible that neither country sees it as a high-stakes priority, said Kelly, but orderly access to the waters is "vital" to the two fishing industries. But a succession of border accords from the 1783 Treaty of Peace - between the newly independent United States and Britain - up to a 1984 International Court of Justice case failed to resolve the fate of Machias Seal Island and its waters.

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. "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".

"There is no threat, there's no indication of any movement of humanity from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia through the Bay of Fundy to the United States", said Lee Cohen, an immigration and refugee lawyer who has practised in Halifax for more than 30 years. So far, 21 Canadian vessels have been interviewed by local agents in the 2018 fiscal year, she said, with zero immigration arrests made.

Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the U.S. has recently begun monitoring more closely. As well, the group suggested the actions of the US agents may have been routine. The Canadian Coast Guard maintains a manned lighthouse on the island but American and Canadian fishermen prowl the rich lobster areas nearby.

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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