MADRID — Canadian rescuers called off the search for 12 missing crew members from a Spanish fishing vessel that sank in rough seas off Newfoundland.

The Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax, Canada, announced late Wednesday it was suspending the exhaustive search by aircraft and vessels that retrieved nine bodies from the water and rescued three survivors found in a lifeboat.

The center reported rough seas and some fog in the area where the 50-meter (164-foot) Villa de Pitanxo sank in the dark early Tuesday.


The vessel operated out of northeast Spain’s Galicia region, where Spanish Fisheries Minister Luis Planas was due to meet with families of the dead on Thursday.

Planas called the sinking the worst tragedy for our fishing fleet in 38 years.

The Villa de Pitanxo went down some 460 kilometers (250 nautical miles) east of Newfoundland.

Planas and local fishing officials described the boat as modern and designed to withstand the typically harsh weather of the area.

The crew included 16 Spaniards, five Peruvians and three workers from Ghana, according to Spains maritime rescue service.