Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tiny, Rocky Island Subject of Dispute between Canada and United States

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Tiny, Rocky Island Subject of Dispute between Canada and United States

Article excerpt

Rocky island at centre of land dispute

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FREDERICTON - A tiny island between New Brunswick and Maine is the subject of renewed calls from both sides of the border to settle a territorial dispute once and for all.

Machias Seal Island is a flat, treeless piece of rock located about 19 kilometres southwest of Grand Manan Island at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy.

The island is a sanctuary for many kinds of seabirds including the Atlantic Puffin and draws visitors from around the world to observe them in the summer.

There are no permanent human residents on the island, just pairs of lightkeepers who spend 28 days at a time maintaining a lighthouse operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. The original lighthouse was built by the British in 1832, and a lighthouse has been maintained there ever since.

So why would anyone even care which country gets title to Machias Seal Island?

The answer lies in the 720 square kilometres of water around the island in what's called a grey zone. Lobster fishermen from both Canada and the U.S. fish these waters.

"The fishing community on Grand Manan is permitted to fish there on an open-end basis and it's our way of laying our claim to this water that is part of the Machias Seal Island dispute," said MP John Williamson, who represents the riding of New Brunswick-Southwest.

Williamson said the island is considered to be in his riding.

"I think our claim is sound and is legitimate, but at the end of the day it's going to come down to the minister in this country and the administration in Washington to settle it," he said.

"I think it is in the interests of both of our countries to do that."

That feeling is echoed by Stephen Kelly, a professor at the Center for Canadian Studies at Duke University and a retired American diplomat who has served in Canada.

"It just strikes me if we have this opportunity to remove a potential irritant going forward, why don't we take it? …

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