Their 19-foot, single engine boat was recovered on Sunday near the Ponce de Leon Inlet in Florida, but the boys were nowhere to be found.
“If new information comes to light we have the ability to reopen the case,” Capt. Mark Fedor, chief of response for the Coast Guard 7th District in Miami, said at a news conference Friday.
“We believe we’ve reached the limit for our effective search and rescue operations,” Fedor added.
Coast Guard cutters have searched nearly 50,000 square miles from the southern tip of Florida up to the coast of Cape Hatteras, N.C. All told, crews compressed 30 days’ worth of searching in just one week, Fedor said.
The Coast Guard informed the boys’ families on Wednesday that they planned to suspend the search at sunset Friday.
“I hope that at some point in the future, they can take solace from the fact that hundreds of people searched thousands of miles because we were desperately committed to try to find Austin and Perry,” Fedor said. “That is my hope.”
In a statement issued after the Coast Guard’s announcement, the families said they would continue the search for the boys, according to NBC News.
“We are continuing the search for Perry and Austin and not giving up until they are rescued,” the statement said. “The next 48 hours are critical, and the family and friends are offering $100,000 for the safe return of the boys.”
Early Friday morning, Perry’s mother, Pamela, still sounded optimistic, writing on Instagram: “As the sun rises another day, it is a mothers prayer that you will be safe and sound in our arms today. This evening sky will be illuminated by a Blue moon. It seems to be too special of a day.”
The boys were allowed to go fishing alone because they had spent much of their childhood on the water, their parents said.
“Austin has been on the water since before he could walk,” Austin’s mother, Carly Black, told NBC News. “This is his fourth boat. This isn’t new to them. These boys have been doing this…it’s not even second nature at this point. It’s in their blood…they’re out there.”
But experts cautioned that the teens were likely still too young and inexperienced to deal with a crisis situation that might have occurred on the water.