Canadian rescue teams on Wednesday called off their search efforts some 36 hours after the Villa de Pitanxo with 24 people on board sank in rough and frigid seas off the coast of Newfoundland.
Onboard were 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three Ghanaians.
Three crew members were plucked from a life raft early in Tuesday suffering from severe hypothermia and rescuers have since recovered nine bodies, leaving 12 others missing, presumed drowned.
“We have to keep looking for the bodies, we can’t leave 12 people stranded in the sea,” said John Okutu, uncle of Edemon Okutu, one of the crew members from Ghana who is among the missing.
“If Canada can’t keep on looking, the Spanish must go, that’s what the families want,” he told journalists in Marín in the northwestern region of Galicia where the vessel was based.
Standing at his side, Kevin Franco, the son of Regelio Franco, one of the missing Peruvians, agreed.
“Keep looking for him, please,” he said.
“We want some information about him. Since the accident, we haven’t heard anything.”
Canadian authorities ended their search of the freezing waters at 2000 GMT on Wednesday after an “exhaustive” 36-hour operation in which they combed 900 nautical square miles.
Spain’s foreign ministry said the rescue effort was called off due to “the impossibility of maintaining the search under unfavourable weather conditions, with 10-metre waves, strong winds, temperatures close to zero degrees and very reduced visibility”.
The three survivors — two Spaniards and a Ghanaian — and the nine bodies that were recovered are on their way to St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland. A Spanish vessel and Portuguese boat are transporting them, it said.
They are expected to arrive at around 0930 GMT on Friday.
The last time Spain suffered a major fishing disaster was in July 1984 when a sardine boat called the Islamar III sank off the Canary Islands, claiming 26 lives.