The search for two students and an instructor missing in the sea off the New Plymouth coast will resume again at first light tomorrow.
Police say the operation to find 17-year-old students Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo, and 42-year-old instructor Bryce Jourdain, missing off Paritutu Rock is now a body recovery mission.
Incident Controller Inspector Frank Grant says an Iroquois is still searching the shoreline as the tide recedes.
"We'll be calling off the rest of the operation for the day ... We will have everybody back in at 7 o'clock tomorrow morning at sea and in the air."
Inspector Grant says the police investigation will run alongside the Department of Labour's investigation.
"It's too early to speculate what has occurred, but our primary focus is still on putting our efforts towards finding the missing three."
"It has been pretty rough out at sea and we anticipate that this could last for a couple of days."
He says the Police National Dive Squad has been unable to help in the search as yet because of the rough conditions.
A search has been running off the coast and on land since early this morning.
It's been focused on a four kilometre stretch of coastline from Tapuae to Omata.
Photo: Bryce Jourdain, Stephen Kahukaka-Gedye and Felipe Melo (supplied)