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American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

American border patrol agents stopping and boarding Canadian vessels: spokesman

At least 10 Canadian fishing boats have been stopped by USA immigration authorities within the past two weeks, Cook said, the latest escalation in a more than 300-year disagreement between the countries in the disputed waters off Machias Seal Island.

That debate has come to a head lately, starting with a June 25 Facebook post in which a Canadian fisherman alleged that U.S. Border Patrol attempted to stop a fellow fisherman "in the zone".

Laurence Cook, chairman for the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, which is based in New Brunswick, Canada, said at least 10 boats had been stopped in a two week period in the area around Machias Seal Island. Both countries claim the island, which is about 10 miles off ME and home to two full-time residents (both Canadian), puffins, rocks and not much else, and say they have the right to patrol its boundaries.

"Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law", said Global Affairs spokeswoman Elizabeth Reid, adding that Ottawa was reaching out to the US authorities for more details on the incident. "Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise conducted along the US marine border", the association said.

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".

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

Elizabeth Read, a Global Affairs spokeswoman, said that "Canada's sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in worldwide law".

As Canada's presence increased in the area, Drouin said, so did Canadian fishing patrol boats, watching Americans operate their lobster traps.

"Obviously, we are concerned when Canadian fishers are intercepted by American authorities when they are practicing fishing activity that has existed positively and co-operatively with the Americans for a very long time", he reportedly said.

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But the United States has never relinquished its claim on the island.

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

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.

Lobsterman from both sides of the border are known to fish in that zone.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

None of those interventions resulted in any immigration arrests, she said, adding that the patrol also participated in two sea rescues.

A statement by the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said: "We understand that a few Grand Manan fishermen were approached by the United State Border Services during the month of June".

The Canadian lighthouse on Machias Seal Island, which is located about 12 miles off the coast of Cutler, is seen in this undated photo.

In 40 years fishing off ME, this is the first time he can remember Border Patrol operating offshore like this, Drouin said. "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".