Canada probes row between United States customs, fishermen on disputed island area

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

US border officials have not been deliberately "harassing" Canadian fishing boats in disputed Atlantic waters - agents have boarded numerous American vessels, too, as part of an unprecedented recent operation, says a prominent ME lobsterman.

But this summer that camaraderie has been threatened, Canadian fishermen claim, as officers with the U.S. Border Patrol have started to wade into the area, pull up aside their vessels and ask about their citizenship.

The location is shelter for Machias Seal Island and indicates one of the finally remained border disputes between the US and Canada, on account of contending stipulations spread out by land grants and treaties.

The waters that surround the island, at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, in the Gulf of ME are also disputed.

"Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with USA agencies involved in the matter", John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada said on Wednesday.

Laurence Cook, chairman of the advisory board for Lobster Fishing Area 38, said Wednesday that some Canadian vessels were boarded by American agents who asked about possible illegal immigrants.

Customs and Border Protection told Business Insider in a statement that its agents have stopped and interviewed 21 Canadian vessels since last October in those waters, which the agency called "jurisdictional waters of the United States".

According to Cook, the Canadian fishing captain, Nick Brown, informed the US vessel that "he was a Canadian vessel legally fishing in Canadian waters". According to the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, "Canada's sovereignty over the area is long standing and has a strong foundation in global law", although it notes the United States disputes Canada's claim.

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

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In a written statement, the fisherman's association said American and Canadian fishermen have jointly fished the 102-square mile area for years.

The U.S. State Department did not respond to questions about U.S. territorial claims on Machais Seal Island and the Gray Zone.

As tensions rise between the United States and Canada, there is a new clash in the cool waters off the northeast tip of ME, which are rich with lobster, scallops and cod.

The federal agency did not confirm how many vessels this had happened to.

"There is no threat, there's no indication of any movement of humanity from New Brunswick or Nova Scotia through the Bay of Fundy to the United States", said Lee Cohen, an immigration and refugee lawyer who has practised in Halifax for more than 30 years.

"We are in a different time and Border Patrol is patrolling..." As a result, the area has long hosted lobster fisherman from both sides of the border.

Visitors head to Machias Seal Island on in June 2016.

"If the Canadians want to use the term harass, they have been harassing us for years", Drouin said. The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association later confirmed that several such interactions occurred in June, NBC reports.

Drouin said the area has been "inundated" with Canadian lobster fishermen since 2002. "Until the matter of the boundary is resolved, we will continue to take practical steps with the ensure that the area is well managed". Additionally, Malin said that Border Patrol agents would not board any vessel without permission or probable cause.

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