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As politicians line up against Canada boat fine, border agency looks to clarify rules.

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The US Department of State said on Tuesday that Canadian Border Officials were "well within their rights" when they threatened to seize an American fisherman's boat and fined him $1000 in May. It said the officials were just enforcing their rule that boats entering Canadian waters - not simply in transit - must report in on special phones located in marinas and other locations on land.

But politicians on both sides of the border are lining up against the move.

If you are on the river and are in doubt about whether you need to check in with Canadian Customs, call 204-983-3500.

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Reported by

Nora Flaherty
Digital Editor, News

US Congressman Bill Owens and State Senator Pattie Ritchie have both expressed serious concerns over what enforcement of that policy—which most boaters weren’t even aware of—could do to the fishing and tourism industries along the St. Lawrence.

Ottawa Senator Bob Runciman went further in his language, saying in a press release that he “deplores” the treatment of US Fisherman Roy Anderson, and saying that “Requiring fishermen to check into customs every time they stray across the border simply means they’ll stay as far away from Canada as they can.”

As policymakers take stands on the issue, boaters are confused about what they can and can’t do…and border officials are charged with enforcing the existing policy in the water. Nora Flaherty spoke with the Canadian Border Security Agency’s Chris Keeley in hopes of getting some clarity on the issue.

"The rules haven't changed. Folks in that area understand for the most part what those obligations are," Keeley said. "We have not encountered situations like that in the past. People who navigate those waters are for the most part, very well informed because they have to be from a safety standpoint of manuevering through islands, shoals and shallow water.

"Again, we beleive most people understand and know what the obligations are on both sides of the river. If people are uncertain, what I can advise them to do is, if they plan a trip and they are unsure what the reporting requirements are, to call the telephone reporting center and they will advise people what to do."

Keely said the region's unique geography becomes dangerous when many vessels are attempting to travel through the area. For those situations, Keely said, there are exceptions in the laws. "The law does permit, again, for those people who are in transit from one point to another to navigate into Canadian waters for safety or other reasons as long as they continue on that journey," he said. 

On the legality of fishing along the border, Keely said he was confident with his agency's enforcement, even if the law leaves much to be debated. "It depends on the situation. If you are within a few hundred meters of the line or a few meters of the line, y'know, that seems to be OK. If you are going upriver on the Canadian side or going into a very distinct bay that is quite some distance from the international line, that's a different story. And there is an obligation to report in those situations."


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