MARY'S HARBOUR, N.L. — The father of one of the two men aboard a fishing vessel lost in waters off southern Labrador is appealing to the Canadian Coast Guard to reverse its decision to change its mission from one of search and rescue to recovery.

In a Facebook post late Sunday night, Dwight Russell began by thanking the public for its support as efforts to find his son, Marc Freeman Russell, and his crewmate Joey Jenkins, who left on the nine-metre fishing vessel Island Lady from Mary's Harbour early Friday morning but were didn’t return to harbour as expected that evening.

Local fishermen began the search, which was later joined by the Coast Guard and aircraft at the direction of the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) in Halifax.

Meanwhile, vigils for two missing men were being held in communities throughout the region during the weekend.

“(The) response has been overwhelming and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for your help and prayers,” wrote Dwight Russell. “My wife, my daughter, my entire family and the Jenkins family are humbled and grateful.

“But as I write this, the Coast Guard has informed our families that they are pulling out and changing the mission from search & rescue to recovery, and operational control will be turned over to the RCMP.  

“This is unacceptable! This is absolutely the wrong decision! It is too soon!”

The Halifax JRCC revealed its decision through social media late Sunday.

“Regrettably, based on the results of the exhaustive search by a significant number of SAR aircraft and vessels over the last 48+ hours, a search covering over 4,500 sq NM, the search for the two missing fishers aboard the FV Island Lady has been suspended,” read the post.

“Our thoughts and sincere condolences go out to the families, friends, and community of these men. The case will now be turned over to the RCMP as a missing persons at sea case.”

In a statement shared on her Facebook page Monday morning, Labrador Liberal incumbent candidate Yvonne Jones said JRCC “has again failed Labrador families by pulling out their operations on Search and Rescue” for the two men.

She said in light of JRCC’s decision, the Minister of National Defence authorized the use of military aircraft in the search, and the Minister for the Coast Guard authorized the use of Coast Guard resources. Jones said the RCMP is now co-ordinating the search effort.

“Today we focus all efforts, with everyone on deck to get this done,” she wrote. “We continue to pray, to hope and then we pray and hope again today they will come home safe.”

Russell said the family learned of Coast Guard’s plans Sunday evening.

“This decision was delivered to the families two hours prior to dark with no transition plan in place. This has been done with no conclusive evidence that the vessel and lives have been lost,” he said. “In Labrador, there are no coast guard vessels or search and rescue infrastructure. They plan to turn over the recovery mission to the RCMP with full knowledge there is a dire lack of resources to address this situation.”

On Sunday, there were reports of the discovery of debris, including fish tubs, that searchers believe may be from the Island Lady. And Dwight Russell says it has been confirmed his son attempted to make a satellite phone call at around 4 pm. Friday.

“We are only asking for an additional 24 hours of SAR support and we need your voices to tell the federal government to act now,” continued Russell in the post. “Please, please, please help us! Don't let the Coast Guard abandon our boys. We cannot lose our sons due to a lack of search and rescue resources. This search has only had one day of good search conditions. We need more time!  Our boys deserve more time!”

Russell finished by asking the public to reach out to the federal federal government and Coast Guard demanding the search and rescue mission to be maintained, providing a list of contact information and asked that his Facebook post be shared.