Border Patrol agents reportedly stop Canadians in disputed waters

Theresa Obrien
July 9, 2018

However, both countries claim jurisdiction over Machias Seal Island, which is occupied by two Canadian lightkeepers at its lighthouse. In recent times, these waters have yielded lucrative catches of lobster, further intensifying competition between fishermen over the past decade.

LeBlanc said concerns about illegal immigration at the border between the U.S. and Mexico should not be applied to the Canada-U.S. 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". "They say it's routine patrolling, but it is the first routine patrolling in 25 years".

U.S. Border Patrol agents reportedly stopped and searched at least ten Canadian fishing boats in the past two weeks, according to The Toronto Star. The island lies about 10 miles offshore between the Gulf of ME and the Bay of Fundy.

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. "Right answer Nick", said Cook.

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".

The decision to enforce American immigration rules in the area effectively denies the strong Canadian claim to the islands and waters. "Now with Trump as president and some of the kinds of xenophobic and racist arguments that he's presented around immigration, and some of the ways that he's attacked Canada and our prime minister, I think there's more of an anti-Americanism that's starting to bubble up".

Canada's foreign affairs department said that it had heard about two stops in late June involving Border Patrol officers and had asked the US government for an explanation.

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Canada is contacting USA agencies about the encounters, said John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada. According to the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, "Canada's sovereignty over the area is long standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", although it notes the United States disputes Canada's claim.

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

US officials told CBC News the agents were there to "enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law".

"Border Patrol does not board Canadian Vessels in the grey zone without consent or probable cause and only conduct (s) interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern", the spokesman added by email. No one was arrested and nothing was confiscated, he said.

"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", she said, adding that the agency was conducting regular patrol operations to enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law during the operation in June. Customs and Border Patrol has its own boats and aircraft. But those officers have been spotted on boats at a higher rate this summer, fishermen said.

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

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

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