A US Coast Guard plane on its way home after a rescue training exercise in Auckland has found a group of missing Tongan fishermen in the Pacific.

New Zealand Search and Rescue officer Greg Johnston said the crew was "about to head home" from Whenuapai when the Tongan police called.

The search area was on the Coast Guard crew's route home to Honolulu.

The crew had been attending the Pacific Search and Rescue Conference in Auckland, which involved rescue drills.


The Coast Guard officers spotted the missing 12m boat near Tongatapu Island soon after the plane flew in to the search area, Johnston said.

They dropped food, water a radio and a transponder to the six fishermen.

The men were then picked up by a Tongan Navy ship early this morning.

The six fishermen had been at sea for a week when the Rescue Co-ordination Centre of New Zealand received the call.