At least 10 Canadian fishing boats operating in disputed waters off the coast of Maine were intercepted in recent days by U.S. Border Patrol agents searching for illegal immigrants, according to Canadian news organizations.

The boats were stopped while fishing near Machias Seal Island, an area where both the United States and Canada claim jurisdiction. Both nations have fished in the area for generations.

A spokesman for New Brunswick fishermen, Laurence Cook, chairman of a local lobster advisory, told The Canadian Press he’s never seen border patrol agents in the area, though the U.S. Coast Guard operates there routinely.

The Grand Manan Fishermen’s Association issued a statement Wednesday in New Brunswick that said “a few Grand Manan fishermen were approached by the United States Border Services during the month of June.”

“Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the U.S. marine border,” it said, adding that it will work with the Canadian government “to ensure that our fishermen will be able to continue their fishery in a normal manner.”

Global Affairs Canada told reporters it is investigating “incidents that occurred in Canadian waters.”


The U.S. State Department is apparently working with Canadian counterparts to try to resolve the issue, according to Canadian press reports.

Machias Seal Island is about 18 acres. Its status has been in dispute for more than two centuries, with Canada generally having the upper hand. It constructed a lighthouse there long ago.

But the United States has never relinquished its claim on the island. Fishing boats from each nation operate off its shores in a legal gray zone.

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