Friday, 16 November, 2018

United States border agents approached Canada fishermen in disputed waters

A spokesman for New Brunswick fishermen based on Grand Manan Island says at least 10 Canadian fishing boats have been intercepted by U.S. Border Patrol agents since last week while fishing in the disputed wate United States border agents approached Canada fishermen in disputed waters
Sandra Phillips | 06 July, 2018, 01:29

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

Spokesman John Babcock said the Canadian government is also talking with USA agencies.

The island is located between the Canadian province of New Brunswick and the U.S. state of Maine.

According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the USA vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".

Canadian officials say armed U.S. Border Patrol agents have been stopping and boarding Canadian fishing boats to look for illegal immigrants in the contested waters between ME and New Brunswick, resurfacing an old maritime dispute.

Ties between Canada and the United States have been strained since President Donald Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminum, citing U.S. national security, with Trump calling Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau "very dishonest" and "weak" after a spat at the G7 meeting in Quebec last month. Boats from both countries have fished the waters comfortably for years.

In a Facebook post on June 25, Cook said Border Patrol stopped a fisherman in the area, who told them he was a Canadian legally fishing in Canadian waters.

Cook was indignant over the search, posting "typical American bullies". "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.

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.

"Sometimes doing nothing is better", he said.

Global Affairs Canada distributed a brief statement saying it is investigating "these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters".

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

The Canadian flag flutters in the breeze by the lighthouse at Machias Seal Island.

On its website, CPB describes its Air and Marine Operations as conducting its mission "at and beyond the border", though the waters in which which these Canadian vessels are stopped have been contested for decades.

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

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

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

According to Cohen, those seeking to cross the Canada-U.S. border illegally are usually pushing north.

It was not immediately clear what happened during the stops, or how they compare to previous USBP activity in the area.

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.

Emily Gilbert, a University of Toronto professor who researches the US-Canada border, told Business Insider that it's common for the both the US Coast Guard and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to patrol those waterways.

A former American diplomat to Canada says the episodes late last month underscore the need for the two countries to settle their quarrel over the so-called "grey zone" surrounding the island before it erupts into violence.

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