USA border agents are now boarding Canadian fishing boats looking for immigrants

USA border agents are now boarding Canadian fishing boats looking for immigrants”

The Canadian government said Thursday it is investigating a series of encounters in which U.S. border patrols have approached Canadian fishing vessels in a disputed island area off the East Coast.

According to Global Affairs Canada, the incidents happened June 24th or 25th around Machias Seal Island and North Rock. 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 US agencies involved in the matter", she said.

U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says 21 Canadian vessels have been stopped so far this year.

Lawrence Book, chair of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, said the agents were looking for migrants without the required documentation to enter the United States.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in an email late Thursday that agents were enforcing "immigration laws and other violations of federal law that they may encounter in the course of their duties during the operation in June".

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.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", Global Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid told the CBC in an email.

A spokesperson for the fishermen told the Press that agents boarded the boats asking about the presence of undocumented immigrants. Cook later said he had heard of 10 fishing boats being stopped by American agents in recent weeks.

"It's just a small part of a huge sea change in the way Canada is interacting with the USA and vice versa, especially with the trade issue", Mills said.

Rick Doucet, Minister of the New Brunswick Fisheries stated that, "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". They declined to specify how many of these were fishing vessels.

Global Affairs Canada says it's looking into the incidents, stressing that it considers the rich lobster-fishing grounds to be sovereign Canadian territory - a position mirrored by the United States.

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.

"What caused that? You'll have to talk to border patrol".

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said it will work with the Canadian government to make sure it is able to keep fishing activities going in a normal fashion.

"A lot of people are a lot more anxious about United States power on Canadian soil or in Canadian waterways", she said.

But Drouin said the bigger issue is Canadian use of the zone. "Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the ensure that the area is well‎ managed".

The dispute over the Gray Zone around Machias Seal Island traces back to the period following the American Revolutionary War.

Despite their governments' debate, Canadian and American fishermen typically coexist in this area relatively peacefully - with a few notable exceptions. Tension over fishing rights in the area can get heated when the price of lobster is high, leading to threats and accusations of line-cutting and other sabotage.

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