U.S. Border Patrol has ramped up enforcement along Maine's maritime border with Canada, in an operation that alarmed Canadian fishermen and surprised Americans.
The Grey Zone consists of about 700 square kilometres of lucrative lobster waters surrounding Machias Seal Island, and has been claimed by both Canada and the USA for decades.
U.S. Customs and Border Patrol says 21 Canadian vessels have been stopped so far this year.
"Canadian fishermen are being harassed by US Border Patrol". The actions have alarmed civil liberties groups already concerned with Border Patrol activities.
"It's a pretty significant area", said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.
But Drouin said the bigger issue is Canadian use of the zone.
The stops have been inconvenient, but he doesn't feel harassed, Drouin added.
"I tried to asked them, they are tight-lipped, they are not going to tell me what is going on", he said.
He said drug smuggling is a more relevant concern. "They said that's what our directive is". The agency said it hasn't made any arrests, and it's operating within its jurisdiction. Customs and Border Patrol has its own boats and aircraft. USA law allows such immigration enforcement actions to be conducted anywhere within 100 miles of the border.
A message left Thursday morning by the Bangor Daily News with a regional CBP spokesperson was not returned.
Border Patrol agents in northern New England apparently aren't just ramping up their immigration enforcement on land.
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Palestinian official Nabil Abu Rdeneh condemned the law, saying it doesn't "allow for the creation of an atmosphere conducive to peace".
"They're not happy about it and they don't think [the Americans] have any business doing this", he said.
A Canadian fisherman's association is reporting that U.S. Border Patrol agents have stopped and questioned multiple Canadian fishermen in waters that are the subject of an ongoing territorial dispute.
Laurence Cook, the chair of the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, said earlier the agents claimed they were "looking for illegal immigrants".
"There's been a bit of a misunderstanding there somewhere", Cook told the newspaper.
According to the local fisherman's association, both American and Canadian fleets have fished the 277-square-mile overlap "for years" - even if the relationship between individual lobstermen is said to be "strained".
Ties between Canada and the United States have been strained since Trump slapped tariffs on Canadian steel and aluminium, citing USA national security.
"U.S. Border Patrol was conducting regular patrol operations to enforce immigration laws and other violations of federal law that they may encounter in the course of their duties during the operation in June", she said in a statement.
A representative for the association did not respond to an interview request Thursday.
"Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with US agencies involved in the matter", she said.
"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 a statement to the Canadian Press. "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".
Fishermen are enraged by the incidents and the Canadian government has said it's investigating. "That's created more tension in the area over the last decade". Additionally, Malin said that Border Patrol agents would not board any vessel without permission or probable cause.