Canada probes row between U.S. customs, fishermen on disputed island area
Canada probes row between U.S. customs, fishermen on disputed island area
News US Border Patrol Agents Have Been Illegally Invading Canadian Waters The latest in a series of aggressions @U.S. Customs and Border Protection
08 July, 2018, 12:50
- 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.
LeBlanc said concerns about illegal immigration at the border between the U.S. and Mexico should not be applied to the Canada-U.S. border.
The area in question is around Machias Seal Island, an 8-hectare (20-acre) rock island at the Maine-New Brunswick border. He was stopped two weeks ago in Cutler Harbor and asked for his identification, and his son has been stopped and boarded about six miles offshore, Drouin said.
Spokesman John Babcock said the Canadian government is also talking with USA agencies, though he did not provide details about the fishermen's allegations or Ottawa's response.
In a statement to the Guardian, US Customs and Border Protection confirmed that agents had "interviewed" 21 Canadian vessels so far this year.
Federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc said, "Obviously, we are concerned when Canadian fishers are intercepted by American authorities when they are practicing fishing activity that has existed positively and co-cooperatively with the Americans for a very long time".
"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is longstanding and has a strong foundation in global law", he said in a statement.
As Canada's presence increased in the area, Drouin said, so did Canadian fishing patrol boats, watching Americans operate their lobster traps.
It's possible that neither country sees it as a high-stakes priority, said Kelly, but orderly access to the waters is "vital" to the two fishing industries.
Even so, Drouin said that a Canadian Coast Guard ship appeared in the zone in recent days, an apparent response to the USA actions.
But Drouin said he is among many American fishermen also stopped by the border patrol in May and June.
The Trump administration has enacted strict policies on illegal immigration in the United States, including a "zero tolerance policy" of criminally prosecuting anyone who crosses the border illegally.
"Additionally Border Patrol does not board Canadian Vessels in the Grey Zone without consent or probable cause and only conduct interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern", they said. Machias Seal Island, a small low-lying island with a lighthouse manned and maintained by the Canadian government, lies about 12 miles southwest of the Canadian island of Grand Manan and 12 miles southeast of the ME village of Cutler.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the US has recently begun monitoring more closely.
None of those interventions resulted in any immigration arrests, she said, adding that the patrol also participated in two sea rescues.
"Is this overkill? Absolutely".
"If the Canadians want to use the term harass, they have been harassing us for years", Drouin said. The Canadian Coast Guard maintains a manned lighthouse on the island but American and Canadian fishermen prowl the rich lobster areas nearby. "Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the U.S.to ensure that the area is well managed". Resolving the dispute doesn't necessarily mean ceding the waters and island to one nation or the other, said Kelly.
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