Fisherman's body found tied to locator beacon

A crew member is dead and another is missing after a tuna fishing boat capsized in high seas west of Cape Reinga last night.

A full scale search and rescue operation involving an Air Force Orion and a helicopter was launched after the Iron Maiden sent out a mayday at 7.15pm yesterday saying it was taking water in big seas and sinking.

A distress beacon was picked up about 8.45pm which led the helicopter to find an apparently empty liferaft about 11.15pm.

At about 4am today the body of a man was found tied to a locator beacon in the water and a search is continuing for a second crew member.

Rescue Centre spokesman Steve Corbett said conditions in the area were very rough.

There were only two crew aboard Iron Maiden, a 15m tuna boat. Their names had yet to be released.

Mr Corbett said they did not know if both crew members got into the liferaft when it was first found last night.

Rescuers could not confirm if anyone was in the liferaft because they could not get down to it in the rough weather.

The body was spotted in the water not far from the liferaft between 4am and 5am today.

The Northland Rescue helicopter had been to the search area twice overnight after refuelling.

Mr Corbett said the 20 knot southwest wind and three metre seas produced a very rough sea which made if extremely difficult for the air force Orion to use its radar effectively.