Border Patrol operations in Down East Maine alarm Canadian fishermen

Michele Stevens
July 9, 2018

The Border Patrol operations came to light this week, when fishermen from New Brunswick's Grand Manan Island told news organizations they had been stopped in Canadian waters by U.S. Border Patrol and questioned about illegal immigrants.

Laurence Cook of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said in a personal posting on Facebook that, in a June 24 boat check off the Machias Seal Island "grey zone" in late June, Border Patrol agents claimed "to be looking for illegal immigrants ..." He was stopped two weeks ago in Cutler Harbor and asked for his identification, and his son has been stopped and boarded about six miles offshore, Drouin said.

A spokesman for Global Affairs Canada has said it is contacting US agencies about the encounters, but that the federal government considers its sovereignty over the area to be "long-standing" and grounded in worldwide law. US law allows such immigration enforcement actions to be conducted anywhere within 100 miles of the border.

According to Canadian media reports, USA border officials have been questioning Canadian fishermen near the island about possible illegal immigration activities.

According to the Star report, at first the U.S. Border Patrol, as part of the nation's Customs and Border Protection, declined commenting on the issue referring any inquiries be made to the U.S. State Department, who did not respond to an interview request.

US president Donald Trump's crackdown on illegal immigration isn't happening just on the US-Mexico border, but also in a large body of water shared by US and Canadian lobster harvesters, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reports.

The Grey Zone consists of about 700 square kilometres of lucrative lobster waters surrounding Machias Seal Island, and has been claimed by both Canada and the USA for decades.

There is a tiny island located on the coast of the Canadian province New Brunswick and American state ME that adding to the dispute.

"Is this overkill? Absolutely".

The agency couldn't say how numerous vessels stopped were fishing.

"Canadian fishermen are being harassed by US Border Patrol".

"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.

Drouin said the area has been "inundated" with Canadian lobster fishermen since 2002. It consists of about 700 square kilometers of "lucrative lobster waters" and has been claimed by both Canada and the USA for decades. CBC added that the U.S. agency said it was not looking into any possible fishing or boating violations, which is the responsibility of the U.S. Coast Guard. "... Border Patrol does not board Canadian Vessels in the Grey Zone without consent or probable cause and only conduct interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern". "Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the ensure that the area is well managed".

He has argued that Canada and the USA should submit the disagreement to arbitration at the world court. In 2007, according to the National Post, an American fisherman had his thumb torn off when his equipment became tangled during a dispute with a Canadian competitor.

"It's a pretty significant area", said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

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