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At least 10 Canadian fishing boats have been stopped by US 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.

"Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the US 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".

The question of jurisdiction flared up recently after the Grand Manan Fishermen's Association said a Canadian vessel had been stopped by United States border patrol while fishing in the waters near Machias Seal Island in late June. The island lies about 10 miles offshore between the Gulf of ME and the Bay of Fundy.

Mills told NBC, "Canada continues to investigate these incidents that occurred in Canadian waters, including through engaging with USA agencies involved in the matter". "Our understanding is that this was part of a regular exercise being conducted along the USA marine border", said the association in a statement.

Chair of Grand Manan Fishermen's Association, Lawrence Cook, said that over 10 fishing boats had been stopped for that reason.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection and the U.S. embassy in Ottawa were not available for comment due to the Independence Day holiday in the United States. "They're in global waters, so border patrol shouldn't be boarding Canadian vessels".

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 US for decades.

Laurence Cook, a spokesman for a Canadian fishermen's association, told Canadian media that at least 10 vessels were intercepted in the last two weeks alone near the Manchias Seal Island, just off the coast of ME and the Canadian province of New Brunswick.

"Is this overkill? Absolutely".

The federal agency did not confirm how many vessels this had happened to.

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

The Trump administration has enacted strict policies on illegal immigration in the United States, including a "zero tolerance policy" of criminally prosecuting anyone who crosses the border illegally.

Despite their governments' debate, Canadian and American fishermen typically coexist in this area relatively peacefully - with a few notable exceptions.

It's possible that neither country sees it as a high-stakes priority, said Kelly, but orderly access to the waters is "vital" to the two fishing industries.

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

The Canadian flag flutters in the breeze by the lighthouse at Machias Seal Island. "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". Both countries have claimed sovereign jurisdiction over the island and historically American and Canadian fisherman have worked in the contested waters side by side.

A U.S. Border Patrol agent looks over Lake Erie near the U.S. Machias Seal Island is located 16 kilometres southeast from Cutler, Maine, while 19 kilometres southwest of Southwest Head on Grand Manan Island in the Bay of Fundy.

She said there had been 21 Canadian vessels interviewed by agents in the sector so far this fiscal year "with no immigration arrests".

"It's a pretty significant area", said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.


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