Canada investigating after USA border agents approach fishermen

Machias Seal Island is roughly 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan and 16 kilometres from the coast of Maine

Since, of course, it's impossible to draw a line in the water, the area is claimed by both countries.

Cook told the National Post in an interview Wednesday that at least 10 Canadian fishing boats have been intercepted by the U.S. Border Patrol in the disputed area in the past two weeks and that some of them have even been boarded by agents looking for undocumented immigrants.

The suggestion that the border agents were looking for illegal immigrants seems improbable, he said.

"Border Patrol does not board Canadian Vessels in the grey zone without consent or probable cause and only conduct (s) interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern", the spokesman added by email. He said he found the Border Patrol operation "entirely farcical".

"If the Canadians want to use the term harass, they have been harassing us for years", Drouin said. "We've seen them in the past, but not on this scale".

At least 10 Canadian fishing boats from New Brunswick have been intercepted in the past two weeks off the coast of ME by U.S. Border Patrol agents looking for undocumented immigrants, The Canadian Press reported Wednesday.

Malin would not say how long the operation lasted or if it is ongoing.

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". Customs and Border Patrol has its own boats and aircraft.

Malin noted that Houlton Sector Border Patrol, which patrols the entire state of ME, will continue to conduct operations in the US waters off the state's coast. Researchers from the university and Canadian Wildlife Services come to study the Atlantic Puffin, which heavily inhabits Machias Seal Island.

She referred further questions to the U.S. State Department, which had no immediate response. The disputed area covers about 277 square miles.

A message left Thursday morning by the Bangor Daily News with a regional CBP spokesperson was not returned.

The group said it's working with the Canadian government to ensure their members can continue to use the fishery in a "normal manner", noting that they have previously enjoyed a "respectful and cordial" relationship with their American counterparts. "They're not happy about it, and they don't think (the Americans) have any business doing this".

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In a Facebook post, the Association's Chair said the USA officials claimed they were "looking for illegal immigrants" and that border officials have stopped at least ten fishing boats in the past two weeks.

A second incident occurred on June 25 also near Machias Seal Island, John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said on Wednesday, after the Canadian Foreign Ministry launched an inquiry.

As Canada's presence increased in the area, Drouin said, so did Canadian fishing patrol boats, watching Americans operate their lobster traps.

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. The Border Patrol described the encounters in the Atlantic as "regular patrol operations to enforce immigration laws".

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

Global Affairs Canada, the equivalent of the State Department in the US, told the CBC that it has confirmed at least two incidents in which Customs and Border Patrol agents had questioned Canadian fishermen off the island.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long standing and has a strong foundation in global law", he said.

"Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the ensure that the area is well-managed".

The dispute over the Gray Zone around Machias Seal Island traces back to the period following the American Revolutionary War. "That's created more tension in the area over the last decade".

"Canadian fishermen are being harassed by US Border Patrol".

"Is this overkill? Absolutely".

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