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Lobster: U.S.-Canada turf war set to resume

Competing claims over Machias Seal Island may collapse the lobster industry there.

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Aboard the 46-foot "Rebbie's Mistress," John Drouin of Cutler, Maine, will steam southeast from the harbor in town to tend his lobster traps in the cobalt seas near Machias Seal Island – a 110-square-mile patch of the Gulf of Maine known as the "gray zone."

In spring, the fishing is easy. From July to early November, Mr. Drouin and about 35 lobstermen from Maine will crowd the waters beside a fleet of lobster fishermen from Canada, with tensions high because both sides claim they're fishing their own nation's waters.

Because Canada and the United States have never settled ownership of Machias Seal Island, a 19-acre rise of rock, and the maritime boundary south of the Bay of Fundy, the gray zone has become for the past six summers the scene of tangled gear, allegations of vandalism, and mutual concerns that such intense lobstering and differing management regulations will eventually overwhelm the crustaceous population. [Editor's note: The original version incorrectly suggested the island had trees.]

As the seventh summer approaches, neither the US nor Canada shows signs of resolving the dispute at the federal level, leaving local groups of fishermen and regulators to sort things out.

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