Canada investigating US Border Patrol agents boarding fishing ships looking for undocumented immigrants: report
© Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press

At least 10 Canadian fishing boats from New Brunswick have been intercepted in the past two weeks off the coast of Maine by U.S. Border Patrol agents looking for immigrants to U.S. without legal status, The Canadian Press reported Wednesday.

A spokesperson for the fishermen told the Press that agents boarded the boats asking about the presence of immigrants. 

“There’s been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere,” Laurence Cook, chairman of the advisory board for Lobster Fishing Area 38, said. “They’re in international waters, so [U.S.] Border Patrol shouldn’t be boarding Canadian vessels.”

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The boats were fishing in the disputed waters around Machias Seal Island, which is off the eastern coast of Maine. Canadian and U.S. lobster fishermen have fished around Machias Seal Island — which is claimed by both nations — for decades. 

CBC News reported that the Canadian government is investigating the incidents, which occurred June 24 and 25.

Global Affairs Canada spokesman John Babcock said the Canadian government is also talking with U.S. agencies.

“Canada’s sovereignty over the Machias Seal Island and the surrounding waters is long-standing and has a strong foundation in international law,” Babcock said in an email to CBC News.

“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.”

According to a statement from the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association obtained by CBC News, the association said it believed the situation was part of a "regular exercise being conducted along the U.S. marine border."

A program manager with the association told CBC that everyone is being stopped, "It's not exclusive to Canadians." The manager, Melanie Sonnenberg, said the association has fishermen who were approached for the past two weeks, but the association was not told of the exercise prior to those encounters.

According to Sonnenberg, the exercise was supposed to last two weeks, ending on June 30.