An American fishermen plying disputed lobster grounds off the East Coast says he too has been stopped and questioned by U.S. Border patrol agents, much like his Canadian counterparts who complained they were being targeted in the same area near Machias Seal Island.
The waters that surround the island, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, in the Gulf of ME are also disputed.
John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, said in a statement Thursday that the stops occurred in Canadian waters. "Our understanding is that this was a part of a regular exercise being conducted along the US marine border".
Laurence Cook, chairman of the fishermen's association, wrote on Facebook that the fisherman, Nick Brown, informed US Border Patrol Agents he was in a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters.
The U.S. Border Patrol, which is part of U.S. Customs and Border Protection, declined to comment and referred all inquiries to the U.S. State Department, which did not respond to a request for an interview.
Cook said that he heard from boat captains that the Border Patrol had searched at least two Canadian vessels in June.
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. The island sits in a a body of water that is disputed territory between the United States and Canada that in recent years has caused friction between Canadian and American lobsterman over who has the right to fish there.
"Absolutely overkill", he said of the "disturbing" stops.
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The agency couldn't say how numerous vessels stopped were fishing.
Drouin said he believed Canadians were overreacting to the Border Patrol stops.
A little-known cross-border dispute that has simmered between Canada and the United States since the late 1700s is now approaching the boiling point.
A long determined neutral zone between Canadian and American fishermen has become the latest display of the rising tensions between President Donald Trump and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
Like previously stated the island is in a grey area of the border but both Canadian and American fishermen work around the island. The island itself is of little value; however, the surrounding waters are home to an increasingly valuable lobster catch.
The dispute over the Gray Zone around Machias Seal Island traces back to the period following the American Revolutionary War. He added that transporting undocumented immigrants on the fishing boats is "possible" but that the Gulf of ME is not typically a path for migrants. The island and surrounding waters are claimed by both the US and Canada, though boats from both countries have fished the waters comfortably for years.
"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 actions have alarmed civil liberties groups already concerned with Border Patrol activities.
Tensions between Canada and the United States are now high over trade issues related to American tariffs on steel and aluminium and retaliatory Canadian levies; disputes over dairy, lumber, and wine; and the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement. It said no arrests have been made.
Cook, in fact, said border agents have stopped at least 10 fishing boats over the past two weeks.