A Russian mariner who was given a special exemption to travel to New Zealand for deep sea fishing has died of natural causes onboard one of the trawlers overnight.
The man, who did not have Covid-19, has spent the last week aboard an Independent Fisheries ship at Lyttelton Harbour after going through the quarantine process in Auckland.
The company says the death is unrelated to the release of more than 200 Russian fishermen from a quarantine facility at the Sudima Hotel in Christchurch this morning.
Those men were permitted to leave early today after spending 22 days in managed isolation, following a Covid-19 outbreak inside the facility.
Health officials say each fisherman has received as many five tests each and are now safe to leave, with their employers showing extreme caution and requiring them to spend another week in isolation onboard the vessels.
However, shortly after the arrival of 94 of those fishermen at Lyttelton Harbour this morning, police were seen on board an Independent Fisheries ship in full PPE.
A body was then lowered to the dock and placed on a stretcher, before being taken into the back of a hearse.
Independent Fisheries managing director Mark Allison described the death as a "tragic set of events", saying paramedics believed it was due to natural causes.
He stressed it was not a Covid-19 case and involved a person who had already been on board for a week.
"We're there to support family and crew members in what is an unfortunate set of circumstances," he said.