Canada investigating after United States border agents approach fishermen

09 July, 2018, 07:48 | Author: Priscilla Morrison
  • ‘Typical American bullies’: US border patrol ‘targets Canadian fishermen’ in disputed waters amid trade war

The government of Canada is investigating reports that U.S. Border Patrol agents stopped Canadian fishing boats in a search for undocumented immigrants in disputed waters off the coast of ME that Canada has considers its own.

Border agents are operating in a rich lobster fishing area known as the Gray Zone that is claimed by both US and Canadian governments.

Chris Mills, a former lightkeeper in the Canadian coast guard, said he never saw a Border Patrol boat or a USA military vessel pass by when he worked at the Machias Seal Island Lighthouse in 1991 and 1992.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", said Global Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid, adding that Ottawa was reaching out to the USA authorities for more details on the incident.

In a statement, the Association believes this was part of a regular exercise conducted by officials.

U.S. Border Patrol has ramped up enforcement along Maine's maritime border with Canada, in an operation that alarmed Canadian fishermen and surprised Americans.

Cook said that he heard from boat captains that the Border Patrol had searched at least two Canadian vessels in June.

The Canadian Foreign Ministry said it had launched an inquiry into the incident off Machias Seal Island, which Canada insists is its territory.

A statement by the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said: "We understand that a few Grand Manan fishermen were approached by the United State Border Services during the month of June". Any vessel operator that does not slow down and stop when ordered by Border Patrol agents can be criminally charged, Malin said. They declined to specify how many of these were fishing vessels.




As Canada's presence increased in the area, Drouin said, so did Canadian fishing patrol boats, watching Americans operate their lobster traps. Both countries have claimed sovereign jurisdiction over the island and historically American and Canadian fisherman have worked in the contested waters side by side.

The Canadian lighthouse on Machias Seal Island, which is located about 12 miles off the coast of Cutler, is seen in this undated photo.

American patrol boats would view the area as sovereign US waters where "they could stop any boats that gave them concern", said Kelly, once the deputy head of mission at his country's embassy in Ottawa. "It wasn't just in the gray zone".

Rick Doucet, Minister of the New Brunswick Fisheries stated that, "Houlton Sector Border Patrol has conducted operations in the past in this area and will continue to conduct operations in the waters off the Coast of ME in jurisdictional waters of the United States".

Machias Seal Island is roughly 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan Island and 16 kilometres from the coast of Maine. Their counterparts in Canada mostly stayed off in the distance, setting cages during the winter around the coast of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

"Typical American bullies", Cook wrote in the June 25 post, asserting that the Canadian vessels were rightly fishing in Canadian water.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks over Lake Erie near the U.S.

"I'm sure from the border patrol's perspective, that's not at all what they were doing", he said, citing the American claim on the area that dates back to the late 1700s.

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