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The Thousand Islands divided by the international border ©Google
The Thousand Islands divided by the international border ©Google

Canadian fine prompts confusion on the St. Lawrence

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There's a lot of confusion today among boaters, fishermen and others in the thousand islands region. This after the State Department said Tuesday that Canadian Border Officials were well within their rights to threaten to seize an American fisherman's boat, and fine him a thousand dollars for fishing in Canadian waters without registering at customs.

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Nora Flaherty
Digital Editor, News

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When Roy Anderson entered Canadian waters to fish back in late May, he had no idea he was doing anything illegal—he hadn’t anchored, and was doing something that people on the river do all the time. But he—and apparently a lot of people—was about to get some news.

"It’s completely different from what we’ve been telling people for decades. We’ve been telling them they can go on both sides as long as they’re not hanging out with Canadians, don’t anchor, don’t dock," said Gary DeYoung, tourism director for the Thousand Islands international tourism council.

DeYoung said that after looking online, he’s not surprised American boaters are confused: "The American documents I’m finding online say the same thing—I saw a press release from the Detroit area that said in bold letters if you’re just going to fish you don’t have to report back to the United States."

Although Canadian boaters don’t have to report in here, apparently that’s NOT the case for American boaters in Canada. In media reports, the Canadian Border Services agency says unless you’re just passing through, you have to check in from a special CBSA phone. They’re at marinas and other locations on the Canadian side, so in order to use one of those, you have to make landfall.

Rich Clark has been a fishing guide out of Clayton for 31 years, and he regularly crosses over into Canadian waters—he says if this is in fact the policy, it’s going to affect how he does business.

"Whatever the rules are we have to abide by them," Clark said, "and bordering waterways like this where we’re all fishing both sides of the river it seems we could work out something more equitable but right now that seems to be the rule." 

Clark said he’s making calls and writing emails to figure out what the rules are, but until he knows for sure, he’s staying on the American side of the river.

The Thousand Islands Tourism council’s DeYoung also makes the point that American boaters on the St. Lawrence want to be in compliance with regulations—they just need to know what they are. He says not knowing can have a chilling effect.

"The Thousand Islands is considered a big cruising destination… and when you enter a confusion as to how you can do that legally, it creates a hassle factor that’s really bad for tourism," DeYoung said.

The Canadian Border Services agency didn’t return our call in time for the story.

A spokesman for Congressman Bill Owens says Owens is working with Canadian officials to clarify the policy and see whether the requirement that boaters check in, can be eased.


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