THE glimmer of hope sparked by the discovery of a tender at Pancake Creek earlier this week has been extinguished.
Families of the missing fishermen from the trawler, Dianne, took to Facebook on Monday, urging people in and around Seventeen Seventy to keep searching the area for their loved ones.
"There is every chance our boys made land in the small tender ... It appears they were able to escape through a window ...," the post read.
But despite the hopeful plea, Inspector Darren Somerville said police were "as confident as we can be that no one made it to land on that tender."
"We totally understand that people have that hope, it's very upsetting to them, it's their loved ones, however, it is very unlikely that the four persons are still alive," he said.
"Very early in the search, the tender was located upturned in the water in the search area out to sea. We confirmed it was the tender from the vessel at that time, however, we were unable to recover it at that time due to sea conditions, and it was left there."
With the tender now possessed by police the search continued yesterday with one fixed wing aircraft, three volunteer marine rescue vessels, the LARC and police in ATVs.
The search is set to continue for the rest of the week until Sunday, when authorities will reassess the situation.
"It's a very large search area. Unfortunately we still have no idea where they are," Insp Somerville said.
Police have begun speaking with "a number of agencies" in relation to raising up the sunken vessel.
"The divers are confident that they've cleared the vessel, however, there's no way to clear under the vessel," Insp Somerville said when asked whether the missing fishermen could have potentially been crushed underneath the trawler.
"It's something we will look at once the vessel is raised ... but it's a large recovery operation. It's something that will take some time."
He said the effort would involve "professional salvage people" doing the job as police monitor the operation.
"The coroner has the overview of whole operation now ... We're [also] speaking with Marine Safety Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.
Insp Somerville said debris including a fridge door, life jackets, wet suits and onion bags has continued to wash up in the search area since Dianne sank.
"The modelling has indicated to us an area from where the vessel sunk to Cape Capricorn. That is where the debris is washing up," he said.
Police continued to encourage people to assist in the search but urged volunteers to let them know if anything was found.
"Detectives are taking statements ... assisting us with that matter ... but it will take a number of weeks, Insp Somerville said.