Cablegate: U.S./Canada Sovereignty Dispute: Update On Machias Seal

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.




E.O. 12958: N/A

1. SUMMARY: Despite an ongoing sovereignty dispute, Maine and
New Brunswick fishermen are managing to fish side by side in
waters off Machias Seal Island without any major incidents to
date. However, Canadian authorities remain frustrated by the
inability of local groups to conclude a complementary management
regime for the area. END SUMMARY.

2. A spokesperson for the Canadian Department of Fisheries and
Oceans (DFO) has told us that there have been no major incidents
to date between U.S. and Canadian fishermen who are fishing in
the waters off Machias Seal Island in the Gulf of Maine. In
recent years, there have been tensions between lobster fishermen
from New Brunswick and their Maine counterparts over fishing
seasons and conflicts over gear placement. The United States
and Canada have an ongoing sovereignty dispute involving the
Island and the surrounding waters, but nonetheless fishermen
from both countries had shared the area for decades in an
informal and amicable arrangement. Maine fishermen historically
fished the area during the summer months and the New Brunswick
fishermen from mid-November to the spring. However, in recent
years, the New Brunswick fishermen claimed that their Maine
counterparts were fishing throughout the whole year and were
posing a serious threat to the lobster stocks.

3. In response to these assertions, DFO began pressuring the
New Brunswick fishermen to work out complementary management
measures with their Maine counterparts as a way to curtail
growing tensions between both groups and to ensure long term
conservation of the stocks. However, by 2002 there had been
little success at the discussion table. That prompted federal
officials to announce the establishment of a special summer
fishery for the New Brunswick fishermen as a way of highlighting
the Canadian government's sovereignty case and to bring pressure
on both sides to start discussions. With no progress in 2003
either, Ottawa again opened a special season for that summer and
repeated the move again this year. This year's special season
runs from July 1 to October 29 with 29 license holders
participating in the fishery.

4. Comment: Our DFO contact is clearly frustrated by the two
groups' inability to reach a complementary agreement on issues
such as access, management and enforcement which our contact
believes could be devised regardless of the sovereignty case.
However, with neither side apparently willing to discuss these
issues, it appears that this summer's season will end the same
as the last two -- with no agreement. END COMMENT.


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