American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels - spokesman

Cesar Mills
July 8, 2018

- Crew members of two Canadian fishing vessels were approached by the United States border patrol in Canadian waters in the Gulf of ME in late June, according to the Canadian government, which is investigating the matter.

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.

A representative with the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said U.S. border agents tried to stop a Canadian vessel while looking for illegal immigrants.

The waters that surround the island, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, in the Gulf of ME are also disputed. US law allows such immigration enforcement actions to be conducted anywhere within 100 miles of the border.

"We don't want this to be a great global incident, but it's kind of curious", said Laurence Cook, the chairman of the lobster committee at the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association in New Brunswick.

Late on Wednesday - the American Independence Day holiday - a spokesman for U.S. border patrol said its agents were carrying out regular operations to "enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law".

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. He said Canada considers its sovereignty over the area to be "longstanding" and grounded in worldwide law.

A spokesperson for the fishermen told the Press that agents boarded the boats asking about the presence of undocumented immigrants. 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.

She referred further questions to the U.S. State Department, which had no immediate response.

Sovereign jurisdiction over the island is claimed by both Canada and the U.S. Machias Seal Island is east of ME, and about 19 kilometers away from Canada's Grand Manan Island.

The agency couldn't say how numerous vessels stopped were fishing.

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Sovereignty of the island is disputed with both Canada and the United States claiming ownership.

Rick Doucet, New Brunswick's fisheries minister, told the National Post Wednesday that fishermen have informed him of "heavily armed" border patrol agents clambering onto lobster boats, saying they were looking for illegal immigrants.

Drouin said he believed Canadians were overreacting to the Border Patrol stops.

Drouin said the area has been "inundated" with Canadian lobster fishermen since 2002.

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

Trump has made cracking down on illegal immigration a cornerstone of his administration's policy, and his now-abandoned "zero tolerance" practice of separating migrant parents from their children at the Mexican border triggered global condemnation.

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

The fishermen are members of the Grand Manan Fisherman's Association.

But Drouin said the bigger issue is Canadian use of the zone. "Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the ensure that the area is well managed".

"It's a pretty significant area", said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

Other reports by GizPress

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