US Border Patrol reportedly stops Canadian fishing boats in disputed waters

Carlton Robbins
July 9, 2018

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.

John Babcock, a Global Affairs Canada spokesman, said the government continues to investigate the incidents "in Canadian waters", partly by engaging with the American agencies involved.

Laurence Cook, chairman for the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, which is based in New Brunswick, Canada, said at least 10 boats had been stopped in a two week period in the area around Machias Seal Island.

After American fishermen came forward to say that their boats were also being intercepted by border patrol agents, the association said in a statement that they understood the incidents to be "part of a regular exercise being conducted along the United States marine border".

LeBlanc said concerns about illegal immigration at the border between the U.S. and Mexico should not be applied to the Canada-U.S. border.

The association declined to comment on the matter.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in global law", Babcock said in a statement to the Canadian Press. The actions have alarmed civil liberties groups already concerned with Border Patrol activities.

The U.S. State Department is apparently working with Canadian counterparts to try to resolve the issue, according to Canadian press reports. "They're trying to get out of the USA and into Canada to claim asylum".

"If the Canadians want to use the term harass, they have been harassing us for years", Drouin said. He said he was "not surprised to see the Americans trying to push people around", describing them as "typical American bullies".

Unlike Canada, the United States does not help maintain the island but still believes that it is their property.

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Border Patrol agents in northern New England apparently aren't just ramping up their immigration enforcement on land.

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

The organisation said they were told that United States border agents approached Canadian fishing vessels as part "of a regular exercise being conducted along the United States marine border".

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

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. "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".

She said there had been 21 Canadian vessels interviewed by agents in the sector so far this fiscal year "with no immigration arrests".

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

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. Any vessel operator that does not slow down and stop when ordered by Border Patrol agents can be criminally charged, Malin said.

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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