Published: Sun, July 08, 2018
Sci-tech | By Patricia Wade

American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

An American fishermen plying disputed lobster grounds off the East Coast says he too has been stopped and questioned by U.S. Border patrol agents, much like his Canadian counterparts who complained they were being targeted in the same area near Machias Seal Island.

Cook said he's never before seen border patrol agents in the area, where the U.S. Coast Guard typically patrols.

The incidents were thought to have occurred in the Gulf of ME on June 24 and 25 in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island and North Rock, according to Global Affairs Canada, the report said. Both countries claim the island, which is about 10 miles off ME and home to two full-time residents (both Canadian), puffins, rocks and not much else, and say they have the right to patrol its boundaries.

Global Affairs confirmed that Canada is looking into "these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with U.S. agencies involved in the matter". "Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise conducted along the USA marine border", the association said.

Canadian fishing boats harassed by U.S. Border Patrol, officials from Canada just reported.

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. The waters around the 18-acre island, known for their lobster fishing, are a gray zone, meaning both the USA and Canada consider them sovereign territory.

There's no telling just how American policing of the waters in the Gulf of ME will affect the Canadian fishing industry there.

Ties between Canada and the United States have been strained since President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, citing us national security, with Trump calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "very dishonest" and "weak" after a spat at the G7 meeting in Quebec last month. The waters near the island are referred to as the "gray zone" because both Canada and the USA claim the island.

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Kristan Porter, another Cutler lobsterman and president of the Maine Lobstermen's Association, said he hasn't been stopped by Border Patrol yet, but most of the 25 or 30 lobstermen in town have.

Only about 100,000 of the United States' 11.1 million unauthorized immigrants were from Canada, according to the Pew Research Center in 2014.

"Absolutely overkill", he said of the "disturbing" stops. "... 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".

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

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

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 United States to ensure that the area is well managed", Babcock said.

"I think you've got to be very careful not to extrapolate a policy concerning the Americans have expressed about other borders and simply apply that to the Grand Manan area of the Bay of Fundy in a lobster fishery involving a small group of Canadian and American fishermen". Any vessel operator that does not slow down and stop when ordered by Border Patrol agents can be criminally charged, Malin said.

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