Published: Mon, July 09, 2018
Science | By Cecil Little

American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

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.

Concerns about illegal immigration at the border between the U.S. and Mexico should not be applied to the Canada-U.S. border, he added.

The U.S. border agents have targeted fishing boats off Machias Seal Island, a "gray area" east of ME where Canadians and Americans fish for lobster side-by-side.

"Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters", said John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada.

The organisation said they were told that USA border agents approached Canadian fishing vessels as part "of a regular exercise being conducted along the U.S. marine border".

Late Wednesday, however, USA officials told CBC News there were border agents in the area to "enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law".

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The U.S. Border Patrol, which is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, declined to comment and referred all inquiries to the U.S. State Department, which did not respond to a request for an interview.

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

According to Babcock, "Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law".

Grand Manan is a Canadian island in the Gulf of ME, right off the coast that hosts the border between the United States and Canada. Any vessel operator that does not slow down and stop when ordered by Border Patrol agents can be criminally charged, Malin said.

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.

Drouin said he believed Canadians were overreacting to the Border Patrol stops.

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Relations between Canada and the United States continue to deteriorate.

Drouin said the area has been "inundated" with Canadian lobster fishermen since 2002.

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.

US Customs and Border Protection described the island area as a "Grey Zone" on Thursday, while Canadian authorities said Canada's title to the area is clear.

The alleged incident happened on 24 June near Machias Seal Island. As well, the group suggested the actions of the US agents may have been routine. The island and surrounding waters are claimed by both the USA and Canada, though boats from both countries have fished the waters comfortably for years. As a result, the area has long hosted lobster fisherman from both sides of the border.

Tensions between Canada and the United States are now high over trade issues related to American tariffs on steel and aluminium and retaliatory Canadian levies; disputes over dairy, lumber, and wine; and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Resolving the dispute doesn't necessarily mean ceding the waters and island to one nation or the other, said Kelly.

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