JAPANESE authorities say they have found an empty life boat from the Gulf Livestock 1, the vessel that sunk in terrible conditions last week in the East China Sea.

Two members of the 43-man crew were rescued, but there are grave fears for the remainder.

On board the ship were two Australians including Mt Isa vet Luke Ordas.

The vessel had departed New Zealand on 14 August with 5800 cattle and was bound for China.

Aside from the human tragedy, the sinking is likely to return public focus to the ethics of live animal exports.

Watch footage of the rescue of a Filipino seafarer here.