American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

Canada's government is looking into reports USA border patrol agents are stopping and searching Canadian boats off the coast of ME, looking for immigrants.

According to Global Affairs Canada, the incidents happened June 24th or 25th around Machias Seal Island and North Rock.

Laurence Cook, chair of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, said on Facebook that a US border patrol launch out of ME attempted to stop a Canadian fishing vessel in Canadian waters.

A United States customs spokesperson said the operation, which is being conducted by the agency's Houlton, Maine, office, is part of a routine enforcement effort and such inspections have been made in the past.

Machias Seal Island is located off Cutler, Maine, about 320 kilometers (200 miles) up the coast from Portland.

The contested island and surrounding waters, which begin about five kilometres southwest of New Brunswick's Grand Manan, are known as the "grey zone".

Twenty-one Canadian vessels and an unknown number of American boats have been questioned by Border Patrol since October 2017 with no immigration arrests, according to Stephanie Malin, a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman.

The group said it's working with the Canadian government to ensure their members can continue to use the fishery in a "normal manner", noting that they have previously enjoyed a "respectful and cordial" relationship with their American counterparts.

Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the US has recently begun monitoring more closely.

Given the area, any focus on immigration would be surprising, said Stephen Kelly, a research scholar at Duke University and former American diplomat who served in Canada.

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The ships were intercepted while fishing around the Machias Seal Island, an area between the Gulf of ME and the Bay of Fundy that has been disputed between the two North American neighbors for centuries.

"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 an email to CBC News.

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".

"Houlton Sector Border Patrol has conducted operations in the past in this area and will continue to conduct operations in the waters off the Coast of ME in jurisdictional waters of the United States", Stephanie Malin wrote in an email.

Cook told the National Post in an interview Wednesday that at least 10 Canadian fishing boats have been intercepted by the U.S. Border Patrol in the disputed area in the past two weeks and that some of them have even been boarded by agents looking for undocumented immigrants. Earlier this year President Trump imposed tariffs on Canada, an action slammed by Trudeau as a "turning-point in the U.S".

Global Affairs Canada told reporters it is investigating "incidents that occurred in Canadian waters".

Indeed, it's not for nothing the area is called the grey zone - gray zone to the Americans.

For hundreds of years, lobstermen in the United States have sailed the chilly waters off New England during the summer, lowering and raising traps along the ocean floor. Cook later said he had heard of 10 fishing boats being stopped by American agents in recent weeks.

Tensions are ratcheting up on the border - but not that border, the other one.

He has argued that Canada and the US should submit the disagreement to arbitration at the world court.

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