US border patrol questioned fishermen on Canadian waters

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In a June 24 incident, a USA border patrol that had been launched from ME "attempted to stop" a Canadian fishing vessel in Canadian waters, Laurence Cook, chairman of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, said on Facebook.

According to Canadian media reports, USA border officials have been questioning Canadian fishermen near the island about possible illegal immigration activities.

"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", said Laurence Cook, the chairman of the advisory board for the lobster fishing area.

And last month, Canadians were astonished to learn that not only can American border agents seize their cellphones, but that the border patrol had established checkpoints throughout New England to stop foreigners.

To get to the gray zone, fishermen in the United States depart from a port like Cutler, and those in Canada take off from Grand Manan Island in New Brunswick.

The small island is a flat, treeless piece of rock, which includes a large colony of puffins and a lighthouse staffed by two Canadian lightkeepers year-round.

The area in question surrounds a collection of small islands off the coast of ME and New Brunswick. In recent times, these waters have yielded lucrative catches of lobster, further intensifying competition between fishermen over the past decade.

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The contested area begins about five kilometers southwest of New Brunswick's Grand Manan and is known as the "grey zone", according to the news service. Since, of course, it's impossible to draw a line in the water, the area is claimed by both countries.

"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.

"I honestly do not know what's going on", he said, adding that a directive to patrol the area may be linked to a broader culture change with the election of U.S. President Donald Trump.

"Typical American bullies", Cook wrote in the June 25 post, asserting that the Canadian vessels were rightly fishing in Canadian water.

He speculated that the agency might have obtained intelligence on people being moved through the area or on other federal crimes such as drug smuggling.

According to Cohen, those seeking to cross the Canada-U.S. border illegally are usually pushing north.

He said drug smuggling is a more relevant concern. Global Affairs will be contacting the "U.S. agencies involved in the matter" to sort things out, he said. "They're not happy about it, and they don't think [the Americans] have any business doing this".

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Cook said the US patrol's claim to be looking for illegal immigrants was "bulls-t". He said he had no idea why American authorities are suddenly flexing their muscles.

"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.

"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 an email to CBC News.

The statement also noted the "long history of cooperation" between Canada and United States in the area.

The Grand Manan Fishermen's Association issued a statement that used much the same language. The actions have alarmed civil liberties groups already concerned with Border Patrol activities.

In a statement, the Association believes this was part of a regular exercise conducted by officials.

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