When Taranaki fisherman Henry Brennan went to check his cray pots in Opunake last week, he was surprised to find a species of fish he had never seen before.

Henry caught a crested weedfish, the first time the species has been recorded on New Zealand's west coast.

"When I went to check the cray pots, I saw the fish. I had no idea what it was so I sent a picture to NIWA to see if they could identify it."

NIWA is the National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research. They conduct research across a broad range of disciplines in the environmental sciences.

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"If I'm ever unsure, I send a photo so they can identify it for me," Henry says. "It's great that the opportunity is available to have species identified."

The fish was identified as a crested weedfish (Cristicept aurantiacus) by Te Papa's fish expert Andrew Stewart.

Crested weedfish can grow up to 200mm long. They are found in stands of kelp from low water to depths of about 55 metres and vary in colour, camouflaging with their surroundings.