US Border Agents Question Canadian Fishing Crews About Immigrants In Disputed Waters

Machias Seal Island is roughly 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan and 16 kilometres from the coast of Maine

In recent days, the dispute has reached a crucial stage, beginning with a Facebook post on June 25, in which a Canadian fisherman claimed that U.S. Facebook post tried to stop one of the fishermen at the location.

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. "Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the US marine border", said the association in a statement. They declined to specify how many of these were fishing vessels.

Federal law gives Border Patrol the authority to stop, search and examine any vehicle entering the USA including those in a maritime environment, Malin said.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", Babcock said in a statement to the Canadian Press.

"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", Cook said Wednesday, the Star reported.

The island's nationality has been disputed for roughly 200 years, as a series of treaties between the USA and the United Kingdom, which ruled over Canadian lands before they gained independence in 1867, never addressed which country it belong to.

Machias Seal Island, a 20-acre island home to a Canadian lighthouse, no permanent human residents, and lots of puffins, has been claimed by both countries since the early 19th century.

"Is this overkill? Absolutely".

U.S. Customs and Border Protection has not responded to a CBS News request for comment.

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The contested island and surrounding waters, which begin about five kilometres southwest of New Brunswick's Grand Manan, are known as the "grey zone".

The decision to enforce American immigration rules in the area effectively denies the strong Canadian claim to the islands and waters.

The searches are part of President Donald Trump's "zero tolerance" policy on unlawful immigration, which has been focused primarily on the U.S. -Mexico border but applies equally to the north border.

Spokesman John Babcock said the Canadian government is also talking with USA agencies, though he did not provide details about the fishermen's allegations or Ottawa's response.

Indeed, it's not for nothing the area is called the grey zone - gray zone to the Americans.

Canadian and US lobster fishermen have fished around Machias Seal Island - which is claimed by both nations - for decades. 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. Their counterparts in Canada mostly stayed off in the distance, setting cages during the winter around the coast of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.

Drouin, a member of Maine's lobster advisory council, said he witnessed three other vessels that were also stopped and questioned, and has seen several Border Patrol vessels in the area over the last month.

The possibility of illegal immigrants entering the US from Canada via the Bay of Fundy is remote, according to a local immigration lawyer.

The sovereignty issue could be sidestepped, for instance, in place of a formal agreement on sharing the area's seafood stocks, he said.

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