Coast Guard Suspends Search for Missing Fishermen off Massachusetts

community mourns lost fishermen
Searchers looking for the Emmy Rose - U.S. Coast Guard photo

Published Nov 26, 2020 4:50 PM by The Maritime Executive

The community in Portland, Maine turned out to grieve the tragic loss of four fishermen days before the Thanksgiving holiday after the U.S. Coast Guard said that it had been unable to locate any survivors. The fishing vessel sunk early on November 23, approximately 20 miles northeast of Cape Cod.

The Coast Guard announced that it was suspending the active search for the four missing fishermen off the coast of Massachusetts, late Tuesday afternoon. The search located various debris and one empty lifeboat. Coast Guard crews also recovered the vessel's Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon.

“The decision to suspend a search is never an easy one. Our crews conducted searches continuously for over 38 hours covering an area of approximately 2066 square miles,” said Capt. Wesley Hester, Search and Rescue mission coordination, Coast Guard's First District.  “We extend our condolences to the friends and loved ones of these fishermen during this trying time.”

The search had begun after the Coast Guard received an Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) notification. The 82-foot commercial fishing vessel, the Emmy Rose, was approximately 20 nautical miles off Provincetown according to the signal. The crew did not issue an emergency call and the vessel’s owners reported that they were unable to reach the vessel on its satellite phone.

Involved in the search were the Coast Guard cutters Vigorous and Key Largo as well as a 47-foot motor lifeboat from the Coast Guard Station in Provincetown, Massachusetts. Air support was also provided by an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter and HC-144 Ocean Sentry fixed-wing craft.

The vessel had departed Maine on November 19 for a trip that had been expected to end early this week. No details are known on the cause of the accident. The Coast Guard reported that the vessel had last passed inspection in August 2020. A severe weather front passed through early on Monday and at the time of the search, the Coast Guard reported the weather on scene was 30-knot winds with 6-to-8-foot seas.

The Coast Guard identified the four missing crew members as Jeff Matthews, Ethan Ward, Michael Porpa, and Captain Robert Blethen. All four were experienced sailors.  

The Portland Press Herald newspaper reported that approximately 100 people turned out last night for a candlelight vigil on the waterfront. Family, friends, and other fishermen were among the mourners, and a Go Fund Me page was launched to assist the families.

The newspaper reported that it has been a difficult year for the local community as it is the second fishing vessel that sunk in 2020. Two fishermen were lost in January when a vessel named the Hayley Ann sank 50 miles southeast of Portland.