U.S. border agents approached Canada fishermen in disputed waters

Pablo Tucker
July 8, 2018

The Canadian government is now investigating reports that say two fishing vessels of the country were approached by the U.S. Border Patrol and the fishing vessels' crew were questioned in Canadian waters, according to CBC News.

In recent days, the dispute has reached a crucial stage, beginning with a Facebook post on June 25, in which a Canadian fisherman claimed that U.S. Facebook post tried to stop one of the fishermen at the location. The island is located in the lower Bay of Fundy, approximately 15 kilometres west of Grand Manan Island.

A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada has said it is contacting US agencies about the encounters, but that the federal government considers its sovereignty over the area to be "long-standing" and grounded in worldwide law. The group said it's their understanding that the recent stops are part of a "regular exercise being conducted along the US marine border", and said it looked forward to continuing a "respectful and cordial relationship" with its USA counterparts.

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 spokeswoman for U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the Border Patrol, confirmed the encounters but said they were routine and suggested that agents did not board the boats but rather adjoined them so agents could ask questions.

US president Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration isn't happening just on the US-Mexico border, but also in a large body of water shared by US and Canadian lobster harvesters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

The Canadian Foreign Ministry said it had launched an inquiry into the incident off Machias Seal Island, which Canada insists is its territory.

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

Ties between Canada and the United States have been strained since President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, citing USA 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. But a succession of border accords from the 1783 Treaty of Peace - between the newly independent United States and Britain - up to a 1984 International Court of Justice case failed to resolve the fate of Machias Seal Island and its waters.

Trudeau has also been critical of the White House's hardline "zero tolerance" immigration policies and the consequent result of family separations at the border, saying that it's "not the way we do things in Canada".

Cohen said he doesn't know who is being targeted by the U.S. Border Patrol when it pulls up along a Canadian fishing boat. The Canadian Coast Guard maintains a manned lighthouse on the island but American and Canadian fishermen prowl the rich lobster areas nearby.

He also said that Canadian government aircraft have rattled ME fishermen in the past by "buzzing" their boats and taking photographs.

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

Machias Seal Island is seen on June 24, 2016.

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

"Is this overkill? Absolutely".

But Drouin said the bigger issue is Canadian use of the zone. "It scares the crap out of you".

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