Canada investigating after USA border agents approach fishermen

Gwen Vasquez
July 9, 2018

Primarily inhabited by nesting puffins, the islands of North Rock and Machias Seal remain the only disputed lands between USA and Canada, with both claiming sovereign jurisdiction over the islands and their surrounding waters. In recent times, these waters have yielded lucrative catches of lobster, further intensifying competition between fishermen over the past decade.

That debate has come to a head lately, starting with a June 25 Facebook post in which a Canadian fisherman alleged that U.S. Border Patrol attempted to stop a fellow fisherman "in the zone".

The CBC News reported the us officials questioned the fishermen, who are members of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association.

The U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) says it has stopped 21 Canadian vessels this year in contested waters in the Bay of Fundy, and has no intention of stopping.

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

Canada has responded with its own show of force. As a result, the area has long hosted lobster fisherman from both sides of the border. "Right answer Nick", said Cook.

Emily Gilbert, a University of Toronto professor who researches the US-Canada border, told Business Insider that it's common for the both the US Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to patrol those waterways.

"He informed them he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".

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

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", Babcock said in a statement to the Canadian Press.

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Border Patrol has recently increased enforcement operations on major New England highways including a day-long roadblock on Interstate 95 near Lincoln in June and regular immigration checks of passengers at the Bangor bus station.

Lawrence Herman, a former Canadian diplomat who now practices worldwide trade law, has been warning that a trade war between the US and Canada could have devastating consequences for both countries. No one was arrested and nothing was confiscated, he said. But those officers have been spotted on boats at a higher rate this summer, fishermen said.

The dispute over the Gray Zone around Machias Seal Island traces back to the period following the American Revolutionary War. "They have had a strong presence in the area for a good solid month". It constructed a lighthouse there long ago. The agents did not board his boat. The manager, Melanie Sonnenberg, said the association has fishermen who were approached for the past two weeks, but the association was not told of the exercise prior to those encounters. "They ask what your citizenship is and ask for your name and stuff".

A Canadian fishermen's group said this week that over the last two weeks at least 10 fishing boats from New Brunswick have been intercepted by US patrol agents while fishing around Machias Seal Island. He said he found the Border Patrol operation "entirely farcical".

The U.S. State Department is apparently working with Canadian counterparts to try to resolve the issue, according to Canadian press reports.

The reports come as relations between Canada and the United States are at their lowest point in recent memory. The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association later confirmed that several such interactions occurred in June, NBC reports. "Canada relationship." Since then, Canada has fired back with tariffs of its own on USA goods from steel and iron to ketchup and dish soap. Fishermen from both countries compete with each another in the lobster-rich waters.

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

That changed in 2002.

The region is well-known for its lobster, as well as for herring and scallops. Planes began flying overhead, taking pictures of American boats.

The stops have been inconvenient, but he doesn't feel harassed, Drouin added. "It scares the crap out of you". "They fly over the top of all the boats in the area, sometimes fairly close, sometimes within 50 feet".

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