A private search effort to find survivors from the Gulf Livestock 1 has been called off.
The livestock vessel sank off the coast of Japan in September after leaving Napier bound for China with almost 6000 cattle.
The ship had 43 crew onboard including two New Zealanders, Lochie Bellerby and Scott Harris.
Forty of the crew remain missing and are presumed dead.
Last month a privately funded search team found debris from the boat, including a life raft and life jackets, on islands near where the boat disappeared.
Families at the time said the discovery gave them hope their loved ones might still be alive.
But on Tuesday Lucy Bellerby, mother of Lochie Bellerby, told Stuff the search had been suspended around three week ago.
"At least we are comfortable in how hard we searched," she said.
She told Stuff it was "very hard to let go" and "really disappointing" that the search came up empty.
However, she said, with the search suspended the family could start to grieve.
"Now we can start accepting the loss of Lochie."
The sinking of the livestock carrier sparked renewed calls for a ban on live cattle exports and led to the Government placing a temporary ban on the practice.
Following an independent review, exports were allowed to continue last month for a conditional prohibition period.
New rules were introduced for exporters and the Ministry for Primary Industries said it would not allow exports to go ahead unless all requirements were met.