Monday, 10 December, 2018

U.S. Border Patrol reportedly stops Canadian vessels in disputed waters

Machias Seal Island Machias Seal Island is seen
Sandy Nunez | 06 July, 2018, 20:22

-Canada border on June 3, 2013 in Buffalo, New York.

Global Affairs Canada, the equivalent of the State Department in the USA, told the CBC that it has confirmed at least two incidents in which Customs and Border Patrol agents had questioned Canadian fishermen off the island.

Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for CBP, says that the Border Patrol has routinely patrolled "within the water boundaries of the United States" for decades and that such enforcement operations are soundly within the agency's jurisdiction.

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.

Canadian state media outlet CBC News reported that there have been at least two such stops, and as many as 10 in recent weeks. Since, of course, it's impossible to draw a line in the water, the area is claimed by both countries. Fishermen from both countries compete with each another in the lobster-rich waters.

"I guess the comment on the street would be: 'Typical American bullies,"' he said.

The suggestion that the border agents were looking for illegal immigrants seems improbable, he said.

Canada is investigating incidents of U.S. patrol boats straying into waters it claims as its own and approaching Canadian fishing vessels.

"He informed them he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".

Global Affairs Canada - describing the area as Canadian territory - said this week it is investigating the incidents.

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"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is longstanding and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", said Global Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid, adding that Ottawa was reaching out to the U.S. authorities for more details on the incident. Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the U.S. has recently begun monitoring more closely.

The spokesperson said that border agents do not board Canadian vessels in the so-called "grey zone" around the island without consent or probable cause and only conduct interviews "as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern".

But that's not what fishermen have told Canadian officials.

In a Facebook post, Laurence Cook-a member of Grand Manan Fishermen's Association-alleged that in a June 24 boat check, U.S. Border Patrol agents said they were "looking for illegal immigrants".

Meanwhile, Drouin charges that the chief problem in the disputed area is not the border patrol, but the Canadian government's lack of management of the fishery there. "As far as I'm concerned, it needs to stop immediately", Doucet told the Post. "It's quite disturbing when you have fishermen on the water, doing their job, providing for their families ... and they're being harassed", he said.

The small island is a flat, treeless piece of rock, which includes a large colony of puffins and a lighthouse that is manned by two Canadian lightkeepers year-round.

The countries have signed what's known as a "shiprider agreement" to allow cross-border law-enforcement operations - but it applies only to the Coast Guard, not Border Patrol.

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.

"A lot of people are a lot more anxious about U.S. power on Canadian soil or in Canadian waterways", she said.