The U.S. Border Patrol (USBP) says it has stopped 21 Canadian vessels this year in contested waters in the Bay of Fundy, and has no intention of stopping.
The area is home to Machias Seal Island and represents one of the last remaining border disputes between the USA and Canada, thanks to competing stipulations laid out by treaties and land grants. Both countries claim the island, which is about 10 miles off ME and home to two full-time residents (both Canadian), puffins, rocks and not much else, and say they have the right to patrol its boundaries.
Global Affairs Canada spokesman John Babcock said the Canadian government is also talking with USA agencies.
"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 during the operation in June", she said in a statement.
Laurence Cook, the chair of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, said earlier the agents claimed they were "looking for illegal immigrants".
According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the USA vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".
According to Babcock, "Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long standing and has a strong foundation in global law".
Reports say that the agents were asking about illegal immigrants.
"Obviously, we are concerned when Canadian fishers are intercepted by American authorities when they are practicing fishing activity that has existed positively and co-operatively with the Americans for a very long time", he reportedly said.
"It's just a small part of a huge sea change in the way Canada is interacting with the US and vice versa, especially with the trade issue", Mills said. The island and surrounding waters are claimed by both the USA and Canada, though boats from both countries have fished the waters comfortably for years.
"He informed them he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".
Ties between Canada and the United States have been strained since Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium, citing USA national security.
Twenty-one Canadian vessels and an unknown number of American boats have been questioned by Border Patrol since October 2017 with no immigration arrests, according to Stephanie Malin, a Customs and Border Protection spokeswoman.
A representative for the association did not respond to an interview request Thursday.
Drouin said the area has been "inundated" with Canadian lobster fishermen since 2002.
Machias Seal Island lies between a grey area in the Canadian and American border which the United States of America has recently begun monitoring more closely.
The reports come as relations between Canada and the USA are at their lowest point in recent memory.
In 40 years fishing off ME, this is the first time he can remember Border Patrol operating offshore like this, Drouin said.
A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks over Lake Erie near the U.S.
Laurence Cook, a spokesman for a Canadian fishermen's association, told Canadian media that at least 10 vessels were intercepted in the last two weeks alone near the Manchias Seal Island, just off the coast of ME and the Canadian province of New Brunswick. "They fly over the top of all the boats in the area, sometimes fairly close, sometimes within 50 feet".
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