Two fishing boats sink in New Bedford Harbor; Vessels connected to 'Codfather'

The fishing vessels Dinah Jane and Nemesis, both based in New Bedford, are sunk at their mooring in Homer’s Warf, Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Schneider.)

Two vessels that sank in New Bedford Harbor were owned by fishing magnate Carlos Rafael, also known as "The Codfather," according to authorities.

The U.S. Coast Guard says 65-foot Dinah Jane and 67-foot Nemesis are part of Rafael's fleet and were moored at Homer’s Warf.

The Coast Guard was notified of a sinking ship by an Emergency Radio Beacon on one of the boats on Monday around 1 a.m. No one was on board at the time.

"We will continue to monitor the situation," said New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes.

The New Bedford Fire Department, which said they found the boast tied together, is also working to stop fuel from leaking into the harbor.

The Coast Guard said the two vessels have a combined fuel capacity of about 9,500 gallons, but it's not clear how much was lost when they sank.

"They set boom completely around the two vessels in question and stood by until daylight hours when a diver could go down below and put plugs into the vents of the fuel tanks," Gomes said.

In 2017, Rafael pleaded guilty of evading fishing quotas and smuggling money to Portugal. He's currently serving nearly a four-year sentence.

NBC 10 News reached out to Carlos Seafood Incorporated, but no one answered our calls.

Last week, Massachusetts Environmental Police Officers said they found five bags of shucked sea scallops -- roughly 100 pounds more than allowed -- hidden below ice and food stores during a fisheries inspection on Dinah Jane.

It's also the same boat where a fisherman was found unresponsive on board in 2016.

Investigators don't believe Monday's incident is suspicious.

"This is something we deal with on a fairly regular basis in New Bedford, being the largest fishing port in New England and the number one dollar producing in the country," Gomes said.

The Coast Guard said a private company is removing the fuel from the water and will also remove the vessels.

It's not clear when that will happen, but when it does, it could help investigators determine how the boats took on water and sank.

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