Search suspended for sunken Spanish fishing boat off Newfoundland
After a 36-hour search in the freezing waters of the North Atlantic, the Joint Rescue Coordination Center and the Canadian Armed Forces have suspended their search for missing crew members who were on board a Spanish fishing vessel. sunk.
“This is the end of an active search,” Lt. Commander Brian Owens, spokesman for the Halifax Joint Rescue Co-ordination Center, said via Zoom on Wednesday.
“All ships, all aircraft that were involved in this search and rescue have been returned to their home bases.”
The Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Coast Guard, along with other search support personnel, searched all night and day for any sign of the 12 missing crew members.
On Tuesday, three crew members were rescued from their lifeboat by another Spanish fishing boat, while the Joint Rescue Coordination Center in Halifax confirmed that nine other crew members were found dead.
Owens says the conditions at sea were extremely difficult for rescue teams.
“Conditions were extremely difficult with 10 meter seas, 45 knot winds and visibility of less than three nautical miles,” Owens said.
“It was extremely difficult for them to continue this research.”
The 50m long and 10m wide vessel, Villa De Pitano, left its port in Spain on January 26 and was due to return at the end of May.
Fred Kingston, executive secretary of the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organization, says it’s not uncommon for international commercial fishing vessels to be in the waters at this time of year.
The 24-member crew included 16 members from Spain, five from Peru and three from Ghana. They were fishing in international waters, some 460 kilometers east of St. John’s, NL.
“There are probably between 10 and 15 ships out there at this time of year, despite the conditions of course,” Kingston said.
It is unclear how the trawler sank, but research members said the sea conditions were among the worst they had encountered.
Still, Kingston is shocked, saying the ships are designed for these conditions.
“Most of these vessels are large bottom trawlers, they obviously pull a lot of weight, assuming their nets are full enough,” Kingston said.
“And obviously in very, very rough seas.”
The three rescued crew members were left on board the second Spanish fishing vessel and were being cared for by the crew.