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A vessel formerly owned by Carlos Rafael – aka the “Codfather” – that was later relaunched by the now-bankrupt and defunct Blue Harvest Fisheries has been declared a total loss after a recent fire. 

The fire department in Fairhaven, Massachusetts said the F/V Carrabassett is a total loss after welding aboard the vessel caused a large fire. 

“Upon arrival, heavy fire was coming from the pilot house on the 82-foot fishing vessel,” Fairhaven Fire and EMS wrote in a release. “Fire suppression on the F/V Carrabassett began initially with water and then changed to environmentally compatible foam. Personnel operated for approximately one hour before the fire was considered under control. It was determined that welders were in the bow of the fishing vessel utilizing a cutting torch and attempted to use a fire extinguisher to extinguish the fire.”

The vessel was originally a part of the Rafael fleet before New Bedford, Massachusetts-based Blue Harvest purchased the vessel, formerly known as Cowboy, in February 2020. Rafael was forced to sell off his fishing fleet after he pleaded guilty in 2017 to falsifying fish quotas, tax evasion, and conspiracy. He then subsequently settled a civil case with NOAA that forced him to stop all commercial fishing by 31 March 2020 permanently.

Blue Harvest then launched the Cowboy under the name F/V Carrabassett in August 2020, but the vessel would only serve in its role in the company’s groundfishing fleet for a few years before Blue Harvest filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. The move by the company wiped out multiple creditors and investors, and the company and its subsidiaries were stripped of their assets – one of which was the Carrabassett.

Fairhaven Fire and EMS said that the vessel’s current owner was present during the fire and that it had recently been retired from service. Most of Blue Harvest’s vessels were won at a bankruptcy auction by C&P Trawlers, with a winning bid of USD 12 million (EUR 11.1 million). 

“Mitigation of environmental issues in the harbor was managed by the Fairhaven Harbor Master, MA DEP, and USCG,” the department said.

South Coast Today reported the vessel was in the process of being decommissioned and that the fuel and motor had been removed. Fairhaven Harbormaster Timothy Cox told the publication the plan was to have the vessel fully decommissioned and sunk to become an artificial reef. The paper also reported a worker confirmed the boat was owned by C&P Trawlers.

No one was injured in the blaze, the department added.

This isn’t the first time former Rafael vessels succumbed to fires or sunk. In 2018, two vessels owned by the then-imprisoned fishing magnate sank at a dock. Other vessels were reportedly scrapped in 2023 after sitting in the harbor for years after the court cases against Rafael were resolved.  

This story originally appeared on SeafoodSource.com and is republished here with permission.

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Chris Chase is the Portland, Maine-based associate editor of SeafoodSource. Previously, he worked covering local issues at the Coastal Journal in Bath, Maine, where he won multiple awards from the Maine Press Association for his news coverage and food reviews. Chris is a graduate of the University of Maine, and got his start in writing by serving as a reporter and later the State Editor of The Maine Campus, an award-winning campus newspaper.

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