Wednesday, 14 November, 2018

Border patrol stops Canadian fishermen in disputed waters off Maine

A spokesman for New Brunswick fishermen based on Grand Manan Island says at least 10 Canadian fishing boats have been intercepted by U.S. Border Patrol agents since last week while fishing in the disputed wate ‘Typical American bullies’: US border patrol ‘targets Canadian fishermen’ in disputed waters amid trade war
Frank Williams | 08 July, 2018, 11:12

John Drouin of Cutler, Maine, said Friday that he was out about two weeks ago when us patrol agents came alongside his boat in the so-called Grey Zone to him to ask where he was from and to see his paperwork.

The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said Wednesday it understands that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol approached "a few" of its fishermen in the 165-square-kilometre disputed zone.

The waters that surround the island, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, in the Gulf of ME are also disputed.

Global Affairs Canada spokesman John Babcock said the Canadian government is also talking with US agencies. "Our understanding is that this was a part of a regular exercise being conducted along the USA marine border".

After American fishermen came forward to say that their boats were also being intercepted by border patrol agents, the association said in a statement that they understood the incidents to be "part of a regular exercise being conducted along the USA marine border".

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.

Lawrence Herman, a former Canadian diplomat who now practices worldwide trade law, has been warning that a trade war between the US and Canada could have devastating consequences for both countries.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", Babcock said in a statement to the Canadian Press. He added that transporting undocumented immigrants on the fishing boats is "possible" but that the Gulf of ME is not typically a path for migrants.

Even so, Drouin said that a Canadian Coast Guard ship appeared in the zone in recent days, an apparent response to the USA actions. The agency's authority extends to the borders of the USA, including the area around Machias Seal Island claimed by the US and Canada, she added.

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

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The dispute has fueled tension between American and Canadian fishermen over the years, as the waters around the island are especially important lobstering grounds.

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

The dispute over the Gray Zone around Machias Seal Island traces back to the period following the American Revolutionary War.

"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".

"We are in a different time and Border Patrol is patrolling..."

But some Canadian fishermen have described the encounters as harassment. No one was arrested and nothing was confiscated, he said.

In 40 years fishing off ME, this is the first time he can remember Border Patrol operating offshore like this, Drouin said.

"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".

Drouin, a member of Maine's lobster advisory council, said he witnessed three other vessels that were also stopped and questioned, and has seen several Border Patrol vessels in the area over the last month.

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