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US border agents approached Canada fishermen in disputed waters
08 July 2018, 11:12 | Justin Tyler
Canada investigating US Border Patrol agents boarding fishing ships looking for undocumented immigrants: report | TheHill
In the past two weeks, at least 10 Canadian fishing boats from New Brunswick have been intercepted by U.S. Border Patrol agents while fishing in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island, a spokesman for the fishermen says.
"U.S. Border Patrol was conducting regular patrol [operations] to enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law that they may encounter in the course of their duties", she said via email.
Canadian and USA lobster fishermen have fished around Machias Seal Island - which is claimed by both nations - for decades. The island lies about 10 miles offshore between the Gulf of ME and the Bay of Fundy.
"Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with U.S. agencies involved in the matter", Babcock said.
The organisation said they were told that U.S. border agents approached Canadian fishing vessels as part "of a regular exercise being conducted along the U.S. marine border".
Laurence Cook of the advisory board for Lobster Fishing Area 38 said some Canadian vessels were boarded by American agents who asked about possible illegal immigrants.
The island's nationality has been disputed for roughly 200 years, as a series of treaties between the USA and the United Kingdom, which ruled over Canadian lands before they gained independence in 1867, never addressed which country it belong to. He said Canada considers its sovereignty over the area to be "longstanding" and grounded in global law.
The 53-year-old fisherman, who has seen a patrol boat only once or twice over the last many years, said he asked the agents what they were doing and said he was told only that they were there to "document who was in the area".
"Typical American bullies", Cook wrote in the June 25 post, asserting that the Canadian vessels were rightly fishing in Canadian water.
The area in question surrounds a collection of small islands off the coast of ME and New Brunswick. They declined to specify how many of these were fishing vessels.
Trudeau has also been critical of the White House's hardline "zero tolerance" immigration policies and the consequent result of family separations at the border, saying that it's "not the way we do things in Canada".
And last month, Canadians were astonished to learn that not only can American border agents seize their cellphones, but that the border patrol had established checkpoints throughout New England to stop foreigners.
The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.
Machias Seal Island is about 18 acres.
Drouin said he believed Canadians were overreacting to the Border Patrol stops.
"If the Canadians want to use the term harass, they have been harassing us for years", 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". But both Canadian and American fishermen said they noticed increased activity in harbors and in the Atlantic in early June. "Absolutely overkill", said Doucet, whose riding includes Grand Manan Island, where the Canadian boats are based.
"I don't think you can draw a line between some of the concerns Americans have expressed for other border crossings with a fishing zone that has existed in the Bay of Fundy that has existed positively and collaboratively for a long time", he said. Additionally, Malin said that Border Patrol agents would not board any vessel without permission or probable cause.
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