HM Coastguard scrambled a search and rescue helicopter after receiving a distress beacon from a fishing vessel near Newhaven at 6am yesterday.
One crew member of the sunken 45ft scalloping vessel Joanna C was rescued by Newhaven RNLI lifeboat in the morning after being found clinging to a lifebuoy.
The man was found conscious in the sea and was taken to hospital in a helicopter.
However, despite teams searching until 11pm, the other two missing fishermen were not found.
Chris Thomas, Deputy Director of HM Coastguard said, “HM Coastguard’s National Maritime Operations Centre has coordinated a major rescue effort today, with many units searching tirelessly since first light and finding one casualty who has been recovered safely to hospital.
“Sadly two other crewmen have not yet been found and all our thoughts are with their families and friends.
“It is testament to the local maritime community that HM Coastguard were so admirably supported throughout the day by nearby vessels and the local fishing communities who joined us in force and made strenuous efforts to locate their colleagues during the search.
“At one point, Coastguard coordinators described tracking 14 vessels covering the search plan area including the two RNLI all weather lifeboats at sea.”
A large number of rescue teams were involved in the search yesterday.
These included Eastbourne and Newhaven RNLI lifeboats, two Coastguard rescue helicopters, the Coastguard fixed-wing aircraft and Birling Gap and Beachy Head Coastguard rescue teams.
Also helping with this search were 12 other vessels, including many fishing vessels in the area.
The search was suspended 11pm last night and resumed today at first light.