TODAY |

Family of missing Kiwi hopeful after suspected debris found from sunken livestock ship

Several items of debris have been found after the sinking of a livestock ship off Japan, giving hope to the New Zealand family of one of the missing crew members.

Debris, including a life ring, reportedly found on the Tokara Islands after the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1. Source: Supplied

Loche Bellerby, 28, and Scott Harris are among the 40 crew missing and presumed dead after the Gulf Livestock 1 sank off Japan over a month ago, on September 2.

However a privately funded search operation says it's found signs of life, including debris from the boat, at the Tokara Islands.

The chain of 12 small islands are located off Japan's coast.

According to the searchers, they've found a single blue boot, a life ring, the canopy from a life raft and three orange barrels strapped together, as well as several dead cows.

Debris thought to be the canopy from a life raft after the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1. Source: Supplied

Bellerby's family say the results leave them hopeful of further signs of life.

"This critical information has been passed on to the Japanese Coast Guard by Australian authorities," a family spokesperson told 1 NEWS today.

"The Bellerby family are calling on the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs for official diplomatic support with the Japanese Coast Guard while the window of survivability remains possible."

Three orange barrels strapped together found after the sinking of the Gulf Livestock 1. Source: Supplied

The private search has cost around $136,000 so far, with fixed-wing planes and helicopters used in the search.

Part of the funding has come from New Zealanders contributing to the search via Givealittle, as well as contributions from the victims' families.

Another aerial search is due to take place around the Amami Islands via helicopter, while a satellite search is also underway.

"The families are working with maritime experts to further identify the items and other potential areas of interest," the Bellerby family spokesperson said.