USA border patrol boat strayed into Canadian waters chasing migrants: fishermen

Machias Seal Island

-Canada border on June 3, 2013 in Buffalo, New York. As a result, the area has long hosted lobster fisherman from both sides of the border.

The reports have thrust a longstanding territorial dispute between the two countries into the spotlight; since the late 1700s tensions have simmered over a pair of tiny, treeless islands that sit between ME and the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the USA vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters".

The last remaining land-border dispute between Canada and the United States has come to a boil again after USA patrol vessels reportedly stopped and boarded Canadian fishing boats in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island, a windblown outcrop between New Brunswick and Maine.

On 4 July, the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association released a statement saying that both Americans and Canadians have jointly fished the 165 sq km (63 sq mile) area surrounding the island for years and have a "respectful and cordial" relationship.

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A former American diplomat to Canada says the episodes late last month underscore the need for the two countries to settle their quarrel over the so-called "grey zone" surrounding the island before it erupts into violence. A spokesman for New Brunswick fishermen based on Grand Manan Island says at least 10 Canadian fishing boats have been intercepted by U.S. Border Patrol agents since last week while fishing in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island.

Cook was indignant over the search, posting "typical American bullies". "Pure bullshit, to be illegal they would have to be in sovereign waters and they know it".

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

"We are very committed to the idea that law enforcement should not be stopping and questioning people unless they have a good reason to", Heiden said.

"Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with USA agencies involved in the matter", she said.

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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. The agency's authority extends to the borders of the USA, including the area around Machias Seal Island claimed by the US and Canada, she added.

Late on Wednesday - the American Independence Day holiday - a spokesman for USA border patrol said its agents were carrying out regular operations to "enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law".

CBP added that it doesn't board Canadian boats - instead, it "only conducts interviews as a vessel runs parallel to it, bow to stern".

But some Canadian fishermen have described the encounters as harassment.

The fishermen's association confirmed on Facebook that "a few Grand Manan Fisherman were approached" by Border Patrol agents in June. "As far as I'm concerned, it needs to stop immediately". "It's quite disturbing when you have fishermen on the water, doing their job, providing for their families ... and they're being harassed". The Canadian Coast Guard maintains a manned lighthouse on the island but American and Canadian fishermen prowl the rich lobster areas nearby. And as the situation becomes more tense between the two countries, their long border will be the site where much of that animosity unfolds.

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

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