American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

The Canadian government is investigating reports that US Border Patrol vessels have been stopping and boarding Canadian fishing boats in disputed waters to inquire about unauthorized immigrants - a move that stoked outrage among local fishermen who say the US is pushing Canadians around.

That debate has come to a head lately, starting with a June 25 Facebook post in which a Canadian fisherman alleged that U.S. Border Patrol attempted to stop a fellow fisherman "in the zone".

The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said Wednesday it understands that the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol approached "a few" of its fishermen in the 165-square-kilometre disputed zone. 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.

Global Affairs Canada - describing the area as Canadian territory - said this week it is investigating the incidents. "Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the USA marine border", said the association in a statement.

In a statement provided to the National Post, U.S. Border Patrol said its employees were properly enforcing immigration law.

US Customs and Border Protection and the US embassy in Ottawa were not available for comment because of the Independence Day holiday in the US. "They're in global waters, so border patrol shouldn't be boarding Canadian vessels".

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", spokesman John Babcock said in an emailed statement.

ME fishermen report being stopped and asked for identification and some boats have reportedly been boarded by Border Patrol agents. 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.

The U.S. State Department is apparently working with Canadian counterparts to try to resolve the issue, according to Canadian press reports.


Maine Marine Patrol specialist Mark Murry, left, and officer Jason Leavitt patrol the waters near the Machias Seal Island in the Gulf of Maine, May 7, 2015.

Stephanie Malin, a spokeswoman for CBP, says that the Border Patrol has routinely patrolled "within the water boundaries of the United States" for decades and that such enforcement operations are soundly within the agency's jurisdiction.

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.

A representative for the association did not respond to an interview request Thursday.

The area in question is just off Machias Seal Island.

"Absolutely overkill", he said of the "disturbing" stops. No one was arrested and nothing was confiscated, he said.

"If the Canadians want to use the term harass, they have been harassing us for years", Drouin said.

"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.

"I don't think you can draw a line between some of the concerns Americans have expressed for other border crossings with a fishing zone that has existed in the Bay of Fundy that has existed positively and collaboratively for a long time", he said.

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