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USA border agents approached Canada fishermen in disputed waters

07 July 2018

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.

CBC News reported that the Canadian government is investigating the incidents, which occurred June 24 and 25. 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.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents have been questioning Canadian fishermen in disputed territorial waters around Machias Island about possible illegal immigration, according to Canadian media reports.

Laurence Cook, a spokesman for a Canadian fishermen's association, told Canadian media that at least 10 vessels were intercepted in the last two weeks alone near the Manchias Seal Island, just off the coast of ME and the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

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

"Typical American bullies", Cook wrote in a Facebook post. "They claim to be looking for illegal immigrants pure bulls-t to be illegal they would have to be in sovereign waters and they know it".

Drouin said he believes Canadians are overreacting to the Border Patrol stops.

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The group said it's working with the Canadian government to ensure their members can continue to use the fishery in a "normal manner", noting that they have previously enjoyed a "respectful and cordial" relationship with their American counterparts. According to the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, "Canada's sovereignty over the area is long standing and has a strong foundation in global law", although it notes the United States disputes Canada's claim.

The Canadian flag flutters in the breeze by the lighthouse at Machias Seal Island.

She said the agency did not have statistics on how many US vessels have been stopped in ME this year and the last five years and would not say how many vessels and personnel were involved in offshore Border Patrol operations or where precisely agents are patrolling.

CBP added that it doesn't board Canadian boats - instead, it "only conducts interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern".

In a written statement, the fisherman's association said American and Canadian fishermen have jointly fished the 102-square mile area for years.

The Border Patrol operations came to light this week, when fishermen from New Brunswick's Grand Manan Island told news organizations they had been stopped in Canadian waters by U.S. Border Patrol and questioned about illegal immigrants. "Because it's not exactly what you would call a major people smuggling route, as far as I'm aware". And as the situation becomes more tense between the two countries, their long border will be the site where much of that animosity unfolds.

Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his administration, and his now-abandoned "zero tolerance" practice of separating migrant parents from their children at the Mexican border triggered worldwide condemnation. "If we had a single boundary line and weren't intermingling, it would be a lot simpler", he said. President Trump's duties on Canadian steel and aluminum, announced in May, were met with in-kind tariffs on billions of dollars worth of American goods.

USA border agents approached Canada fishermen in disputed waters