A man has been arrested at an airport in New Zealand for trying to smuggle tropical fish into the country down his pants.

Customs officials noticed something fishy was going on when his cargo trousers started dripping with water after he arrived at Auckland airport from Australia.

He said he was carrying water in his pockets because he was thirsty. He was taken to a room and searched by officials who found seven tropical live fish inside plastic bags in his pockets.

The man, who was Vietnamese but lived in Australia, said he was bringing the fish in or a friend.

Humanely euthanised

He will appear in court on biosecurity charges. If convicted, he faces a $100,000 (£50,000) fine or five years in prison.

A spokesman for the Ministry for Primary Industries told the Sunday Star Times it was an unusual find. "We have previously intercepted crabs and other live animals but it's not a common occurrence."

The fish were a type of cichlid, a popular freshwater species for home aquariums.

After they were discovered, the fish were "humanely euthanised", the New Zealand Herald said.

Government spokesman Craig Hughes said: "That's something we take very seriously, which is why we are laying charges under the Biosecurity Act.

"The fish could have been carrying diseases or have the potential to displace native species.

"Even if the species were permitted to enter the country under New Zealand's import regulations, it would still need to go through strict quarantine procedures."