Argentine navy spokesman Enrique Balbi said the mission "extended for more than twice what is estimated for a rescue".
The navy said Thursday that the search was no longer considered a rescue mission, but it would continue looking for the missing sub.
"Despite the magnitude of the effort made, it has not been possible to locate the submarine", he said, referring to the global response that included ships, aircraft and personnel from the United States, United Kingdom, Chile and Russian Federation.
A massive worldwide rescue mission had been mounted for the ARA San Juan since it disappeared on November 15 while traveling from the southern port of Ushuaia to its base at Mar del Plata.
"It destroyed the minimal hope that I had", Luis Tagliapietra, father of one of the crew members, told the broadcaster TN.
Furthermore, he said that despite not knowing the fate of the crew, no evidence of a shipwreck was found in the areas explored.
"It is cruel", Tagliapietra told the broadcaster.More news: Sam Allardyce finalising deal to become Everton manager
"I don't understand this arbitrary and unfair decision", he added. It is blow after blow.
"Despite the magnitude of these efforts, we've been unable to find the submarine".
The Argentine Navy says the rescue operation for the crew of the missing submarine ARA San Juan is over, as no chance remains of finding the sailors alive.
The captain later communicated by satellite phone the problem had been contained.
The ARA San Juan reported an incipient fire in its batteries three hours before it disappeared.
Balbi said 28 ships, nine planes and 4,000 people from 18 countries were involved in the search covering 557,000 nautical miles; more, including radar monitoring. President Mauricio Macri has promised a full investigation.