U.S. border officials question Canadian fishermen in disputed waters
07 Julio, 2018, 16:09 | Author: Enrique Watson
Canada's government is looking into reports US border patrol agents are stopping and searching Canadian boats off the coast of ME, looking for immigrants. 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 waters around Machias Seal Island. The waters near the island are referred to as the "gray zone" because both Canada and the US claim the island.
The U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the agents were just conducting "regular" patrol operations. They declined to specify how many of these were fishing vessels. No arrests were made.
According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the U.S. vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".
The report indicated that CBP officials released a statement late Wednesday, saying that border agents had been in the vicinity of the island to "enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law".
"Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the US marine border", it said, adding that it will work with the Canadian government "to ensure that our fishermen will be able to continue their fishery in a normal manner".
The alleged incident happened on 24 July near Machias Seal Island.
U.S. Border Patrol has ramped up enforcement along Maine's maritime border with Canada, in an operation that alarmed Canadian fishermen and surprised Americans.
Elizabeth Read, a Global Affairs spokeswoman, said that "Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law".
Canada operates a lighthouse on the island year-round. Fishermen from both countries compete with each another in the lobster-rich waters.
The reports have thrust a longstanding territorial dispute between the two countries into the spotlight; since the late 1700s tensions have simmered over a pair of tiny, treeless islands that sit between ME and the Canadian province of New Brunswick.
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.
"So, there are, in the case of some global waters, shared jurisdictions, agreements or understandings, even informal understanding that have worked very successfully". USA law allows such immigration enforcement actions to be conducted anywhere within 100 miles of the border.
"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.
"They shouldn't simply be in the business of stopping people at random who are not suspected of doing anything wrong, whether that is on our roads or our water". "Canadian fishermen are being harassed by US border patrol. -Canada relationship." Since then, Canada has fired back with tariffs of its own on US goods from steel and iron to ketchup and dish soap.
"There is no threat, there's no indication of any movement of humanity from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia through the Bay of Fundy to the United States", said Lee Cohen, an immigration and refugee lawyer who has practised in Halifax for more than 30 years. According to Canadian media reports, USA border officials have been questioning Canadian fishermen near the island about possible illegal immigration activities.
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