Canada is investigating at least two incidents in which two Canadian fishing vessels were reportedly stopped and questioned by U.S. Border Patrol agents in disputed waters off ME, a spokesman for the country's foreign affairs department confirmed Thursday. The island is located in the lower Bay of Fundy, approximately 15 kilometres west of Grand Manan Island.
"Houlton Sector Border Patrol has conducted operations in the past in this area and will continue to conduct operations in the waters off the Coast of ME in jurisdictional waters of the United States", she said, adding that the agency was conducting regular patrol operations to enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law during the operation in June.
But that's not what fishermen have told Canadian officials.
On Wednesday, New Brunswick Fisheries Minister Rick Doucet told the National Post that he has heard multiple reports of armed U.S. Border Patrol agents boarding lobster boats to look for immigrants. Any vessel operator that does not slow down and stop when ordered by Border Patrol agents can be criminally charged, Malin said.
A June 25 Facebook post by Laurence Cook, chair of the association's lobster-fishing committee, was less diplomatic.
Unlike Canada, the United States does not help maintain the island but still believes that it is their property.
The area in question is just off Machias Seal Island.
Tiny Machias Seal Island itself is no geopolitical trophy, though it is a unique home to scores of puffins.
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Despite their governments' debate, Canadian and American fishermen typically coexist in this area relatively peacefully - with a few notable exceptions.
Canadian officials say armed U.S. Border Patrol agents have been stopping and boarding Canadian fishing boats to look for illegal immigrants in the contested waters between ME and New Brunswick, resurfacing an old maritime dispute.
"They're in global waters, so border patrol shouldn't be boarding Canadian vessels", he said.
A spokesperson for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which oversees the USBP, said agents from Houlton, Maine, have "interviewed" 21 vessels as part of routine enforcement efforts. "Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the US marine border", said the association in a statement.
There is a tiny island located on the coast of the Canadian province New Brunswick and American state ME that adding to the dispute. Resolving the dispute doesn't necessarily mean ceding the waters and island to one nation or the other, said Kelly.
The Canadian government is investigating incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, and engaging US agencies involved in the matter, said John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, in an email.
Lawrence Herman, a former Canadian diplomat who now practices global trade law, has been warning that a trade war between the US and Canada could have devastating consequences for both countries.
"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is longstanding and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", said Global Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid, adding that Ottawa was reaching out to the U.S. authorities for more details on the incident. "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".