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In The Wake Of Confusion from Boat Seizure and $1,000 Fine On The St. Lawrence, One Fishing Tournament Already Made Canadian Waters Off Limits, Other Tournaments Hang In The Balance

With Future Tournaments On The Horizon, Schumer Pushes Both Governments To Create Pre-clearing Process That Will Allow Anglers To Fish Both Sides Of The Border, As In Past Years

Schumer: Tourism & The Competitive Fishing Industry Are On The Line


Today, U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer announced that he is calling on both the Canadian Border Services Agency and U.S. Customs and Border Protection to create a plan to prescreen fishing tournament participants that would allow them to fish freely on both sides of the border. In the wake of a recent incident in which a Baldwinsville, NY man's boat was seized for drifting into Canadian waters, the New York Bass Chapter Federation has already had to make Canadian waters off limits to anglers, and other tournaments remain uncertain about their future. According to the  Watertown Daily Times, another tournament to be held in Clayton on July 28 th is currently considering how to adjust the tournament after recent events. The FLW EverStart Series is currently discussing ways that they can keep Canadian waters open, ahead of their tournament. The incident came as a shock to the boating community in Jefferson County, as many fishermen had operated for years with the understanding that fishing in Canadian waters without checking in on land was permitted, as long as the boat was not anchored. Given the current confusion over the issue, it is unclear whether events will have to be cancelled or drastically modified due to the uncertainty over border policies caused by recent border events.

In a personal letter to acting Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin and Canadian Border Services Agency President Luc Portelance, Schumer is asking both agencies to work together and develop a method by which they conduct security clearance procedures of tournament participants ahead of time, so that they are free to fish on both sides of the border in upcoming tournaments. The cancellation of or potential changes to competitive fishing tournaments could have a devastating effect on Jefferson County tourism and local businesses. Schumer was joined by Mike Bristol, Director of Development for the Antique Boat Museum, Todd Cerow, Thousand Island Bait Store Owner, and Pat Snyder, fishing guide and frequent tournament participant.

"Uncertainty surrounding this border issue is throwing an unpleasant wrench into plans for competitive fishing tournaments," said Schumer. "Anglers from New York and Canada are thinking twice about participating in these tournaments, that are now at risk of being cancelled - this would set up a domino effect on tourism, lodging, fishing stores, the list goes on and on. While we work to ensure that recreational fishing on both sides of the border can continue, I'm calling on both the U.S. and Canadian governments to quickly work together to prescreen tournament anglers so that they're free to enjoy the open waters, as they have for years before."

Recently, Schumer received news of an incident in which Roy M. Anderson, of Thousand Island Park, was fishing at a spot in the Gananoque Narrows with a friend, when his boat was boarded and seized by Canadian Border Services Agency officers. Officers came aboard his boat and checked his Canadian fishing license, which he always carries, and checked for outstanding criminal warrants, of which there were none. But when Mr. Anderson was asked if he had reported his presence in Canada at a port of entry, which he had not, his boat was seized and he was required to pay a $1,000 fine to get it back. Mr. Anderson was not aware of this requirement and was not given an opportunity to bring his actions into compliance with Canadian law. Schumer called for a prompt review of CBSA's policies and procedures both as to his individual case and for future similarlysituated cases. The CBSA is currently reviewing Mr. Anderson's case, but has yet to provide clear guidance on border fishing policies, noting in their reply that officers "will use discretion" on a casebycase basis. While the CBSA works to clarify its border policies on recreational fishing publicly, Schumer believes that immediate action must be taken to specifically preserve competitive fishing, which serves as a major economic boost to the region.

Canada has provided some guidance stating that boaters must check in via a CBSA phone located on shore, which could be inconvenient for fishermen, particularly those in the middle of a competition. The phone requirement, which would force American fisherman who cross into Canadian Waters to step onto Canadian soil, could then require boaters to check back in on the American side with CBP upon reentry into the United States. CBP officials have been unable to clarify whether the Canadian requirement will impact American reentry, according to the  Watertown Daily Times.

This incident has caused deep confusion in fishing communities in Jefferson County, particularly after an Alex Bay tournament had to close off Canadian waters to competitors. Organizers for future tournaments are concerned that they will have to take similar actions, which could keep competitors away and force them to shut down future tournaments. In order to keep tournaments on track, Schumer is asking the U.S. and Canadian governments to preclear tournament participants, which would allow them to fish on both sides of the border without any hassle from the authorities, as they have done in years past. The plan would call for participants to submit necessary information to border authorities from both countries, which would result in those participants being cleared to fully participate in the tournament. Without this system, or a similar system that preserves the past format of tournaments in which the fishing area spans both sides of the border, tournaments may see seriously reduced interest from participants and sponsors, and could be forced to shut down. Local innkeepers and fishing supply store owners have already told Schumer's office that they have seen a sharp decrease in business due to fewer people taking fishing trips to spots along the border.

The text of Senator Schumer's letter to Customs and Border Protection Commissioner Alan Bersin and Canadian Border Services Agency President Portelance appears below:

July 8, 2011

Alan D. Bersin


United States Customs and Border Protection

1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20528


Luc Portelance

Canada Border Services Agency

191 Laurier Ave. W., 6 th Floor

Ottawa, ON K1A 0L8


Dear Messrs. Bersin and Portelance:

As Chairman of the United States Senate Subcommittee on Immigration, Refugees and Border Security, I am responsible for directing U.S. Senate policy on northern border issues.  On, June 20, 2011, I wrote a letter to Mr. Portelance to express my concern about the Canada Border Services Agency's (CBSA) seizure of a boat belonging to one of my constituents, Roy M. Anderson, a resident of Thousand Island Park, New York, while fishing at a spot in the Gananoque Narrows with a friend.

I appreciated receiving Mr. Portelance's response, dated June 29, 2011, which stated that "based on the circumstances surrounding this case, we look forward to a mutually satisfactory resolution in the very near future."  Nevertheless, the news of Mr. Anderson's case-coupled with anecdotal reports of increased CBSA enforcement activity against recreational fishermen in Canadian waters-is causing a disruption to, and potential cancellation of, several upcoming fishing tournaments scheduled to be held in upstate New York.  At least one tournament has already been cancelled due to the uncertainty of border policy caused by recent events. These fishing tournaments are critically important to the economy of our communities in upstate New York, and their cancellation would cause significant economic damage to the region.

I very much agree with and support your mission of protecting our shared border.  But that mission must also protect our border in a manner that is mindful of promoting vital trade, tourism and commerce between our nations.

In this spirit, I ask each of you to work together to develop, as soon as possible, a reciprocal preclearance program for participants of fishing tournaments scheduled to be held in waters along our northern border.  While deferring to your expertise on the specifics for this program, one system might involve requiring fishing tournament organizers to collect all relevant data from tournament participants, and to then have your agencies prescreen those participants for eligibility prior to the tournament.  Each tournament would be restricted to a specific location of your choosing, such that any law enforcement risk could be more easily managed and contained.  Tournament participants could then fish in the preapproved location without having to fear running afoul of any laws in either of our countries. 

I reiterate my belief that CBSA and CBP are acting as good faith partners to resolve our shared border issues.  It is in this good faith spirit that I ask you to work together with my office to resolve this issue.  If there is any assistance you need from Congress in this regard, I stand ready to help. Thank you for your attention to this important matter. I look forward to working with you.


Charles E. Schumer


Subcommittee on Immigration, Border Security and Refugees


Cc: The Honorable Gary Doer, Ambassador of Canada to the United States of America, Embassy of Canada, 501 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. 20001