USA border agents approached Canada fishermen in disputed waters

Machias Seal Island

Laurence Cook, chairman for the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, which is based in New Brunswick, Canada, said at least 10 boats had been stopped in a two week period in the area around Machias Seal Island.

"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", Cook said in an interview.

US Border Patrol agents have been stopping and questioning Canadian fishermen in disputed waters about unauthorized immigrants.

Border agents are operating in a rich lobster fishing area known as the Gray Zone that is claimed by both US and Canadian governments.

A Canadian-run lighthouse sits on the island and the puffin rookery is overseen by the Canadian Wildlife Service.

The Canadian Foreign Ministry said it had launched an inquiry into the incident off Machias Seal Island, which Canada insists is its territory.

As lucrative lobster catches have increased in the zone, competition between fishermen has intensified in the past decade. And as the situation becomes more tense between the two countries, their long border will be the site where much of that animosity unfolds.

It's possible that neither country sees it as a high-stakes priority, said Kelly, but orderly access to the waters is "vital" to the two fishing industries. "But in this case, just because it looks like it's not broken can be very deceiving - especially with our new president in the United States".

According to Cohen, those seeking to cross the Canada-U.S. border illegally are usually pushing north. Mr Cook said the agents told him they were looking for illegal immigrants.

The possibility of illegal immigrants entering the USA from Canada via the Bay of Fundy is remote, according to a local immigration lawyer. "If anything, people are sneaking the other way". And on June 30, Canada announced that there would be billions of dollars in retaliatory tariffs from Canada against the U.S.

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On Grand Manan, local residents are speaking out about the USA intervention, said Cook.

"Typical American bullies", he wrote.

"He informed them he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters". He said he had no idea why American authorities are suddenly flexing their muscles. The actions have alarmed civil liberties groups already concerned with Border Patrol activities. "Canadian fishermen are being harassed by US border patrol".

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

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

The boats were fishing in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island, which is off the eastern coast of Maine.

"Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the U.S.to ensure that the area is well managed", Babcock said. The agency's authority extends to the borders of the US, including the area around Machias Seal Island claimed by the USA and Canada, she added.

The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association was unavailable for comment Thursday, and Drouin's claims could not be independently verified. As well, the group suggested the actions of the US agents may have been routine.

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.

According to a statement from the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association obtained by CBC News, the association said it believed the situation was part of a "regular exercise being conducted along the USA marine border".

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