Canadian Fishing Boats Harassed By US Border Patrol, Officials Reported

Canadian Fishing Boats Harassed By US Border Patrol, Officials Reported

US border officials have not been deliberately "harassing" Canadian fishing boats in disputed Atlantic waters - agents have boarded numerous American vessels, too, as part of an unprecedented recent operation, says a prominent ME lobsterman.

The question of jurisdiction flared up recently after the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said a Canadian vessel had been stopped by U.S. border patrol while fishing in the waters near Machias Seal Island in late June.

"We understand that a few Grand Manan fishermen were approached United States Border Patrol during the month of June".

In a Facebook post, the Association's Chair said the US officials claimed they were "looking for illegal immigrants" and that border officials have stopped at least ten fishing boats in the past two weeks. "Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the US marine border", said the association in a statement. It consists of about 700 square kilometers of "lucrative lobster waters" and has been claimed by both Canada and the US for decades.

Twenty-one Canadian vessels and an unknown number of American boats have been questioned by Border Patrol since October 2017 with no immigration arrests, according to Stephanie Malin, a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman.

"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", Laurence Cook, chairman of the advisory board for Lobster Fishing Area 38, said. "I guess the comment on the street would be: 'Typical American bullies, '" said Stephen Kelly, a former American diplomat who served in Canada. The island lies about 10 miles offshore between the Gulf of ME and the Bay of Fundy.

He said he sees it all as a way for Canada to assert its sovereignty over Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters, with the two countries' fishing fleets caught in between.

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

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According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the US vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".

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".

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.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the USBP, said agents from Houlton, Maine, have "interviewed" 21 vessels as part of routine enforcement efforts.

A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada has said it is contacting USA agencies about the encounters, but that the federal government considers its sovereignty over the area to be "long-standing" and grounded in worldwide law. "It wasn't just in the gray zone".

For hundreds of years, lobstermen in the United States have sailed the chilly waters off New England during the summer, lowering and raising traps along the ocean floor.

"Obviously, we are concerned when Canadian fishers are intercepted by American authorities when they are practicing fishing activity that has existed positively and co-operatively with the Americans for a very long time", he reportedly said. 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.

He has argued that Canada and the USA should submit the disagreement to arbitration at the world court.

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