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Attend our free screening of
AUG. 14th @ 7:00 PM
To be held at the
100 Lafayette St., Havre de Grace, MD
(410) 939-4800

"This is a ticking time bomb out here," says Brian Cates of Cutler, Maine, who has been fishing the contested waters near the Bay of Fundy since he was 9 years old. “It’s just a matter of time before someone gets killed.”

The United States and Canada have shared the world’s longest peaceful border for centuries. However, an old conflict dating back to the end of the Revolutionary War, over 277 square miles of disputed and increasingly lucrative waters, has sown discord and threatens to shatter the tranquility between the neighbors.

LOBSTER WAR documents this dispute, which is symptomatic of the much larger struggle of climate change. The swath of water in question, known as the "Gray Zone," surrounds Machias Seal Island at the entrance to the Bay of Fundy. These waters were traditionally fished by U.S. lobstermen. But as the Gulf of Maine has warmed, lobsters have migrated north, and the Gray Zone's previously modest lobster population has surged.

Now, Canadians have begun to assert their sovereignty in the area. "It's Canadian water, plain and simple, [and] if it’s going to be fished, it’s going to be fished by Canadians," says Lawrence Cook, chair of the lobster-fishing district in Grand Manan, who has defied death threats from Americans since he started fishing the Gray Zone in 2002. "We are there to stay."

The conflict began at the end of the Revolutionary War, when the newly-independent United States received all islands within about 70 miles of the U.S. shoreline. Machias Seal Island, which is about 10 miles from the Maine coast, was at the time considered to be part of Nova Scotia - in other words, owned by Canada, according to the 1783 Treaty of Paris.

The conflict reignited when Canada relaxed its fishing regulations in 2002 to allow their lobstermen to work in the Gray Zone, including when their lobster season shuts down between July and November. Both Canadian and U.S. officials insist their countries should have sole sovereignty over the area.

In a statement, U.S. State Department officials said: "Our longstanding position is that the Machias Seal Island belongs to the United States." In contrast, officials from Fisheries and Oceans Canada insist that they have exclusive sovereignty over the area. "Both the waters surrounding Machias Seal Island and the island itself are Canadian," they said.

The rising value of lobster has given Canada even more incentive to assert its sovereignty. In 2016, Maine’s lobster catch was valued at a record $538 million. But with temperatures continuing to rise in the Gulf of Maine, scientists worry that the boom times in the Gray Zone will also soon go bust as the waters there become too warm for lobster.

The ENVIRONMENTAL FILM SERIES is sponsored by a grant from the Joseph Robert Foundation, which keeps this initiative free to the public.

Presented by the Havre de Grace Green Team in cooperation with the Havre de Grace Maritime Museum, which hosts the film screenings. All films are followed by a discussion.
BELOW: Watch the official trailer for Lobster War.
Copyright © 2019 Havre de Grace Green Team, All rights reserved.

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