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One of world's rarest humpback whales spotted in NZ (+ photo)

One of the rarest humpback wales in the world has been spotted in New Zealand waters, as signs point to the species' recovery after nearly becoming extinct.

The NZ Conservation Department’s annual survey makes a startling discovery. Source: 1 NEWS

The sighting of a white humpback whale called Migaloo in Cook Strait has the Department of Conservation excited about future of the whales, after Migaloo was only ever been spotted off the coast of Australia

A rare white whale is spotted in Cook Strait Source: 1 NEWS

John Norton is a descendant of a whaling family, a practice that has been banned in New Zealand waters since 1964, but is now a volunteer with DOC's annual whale survey.

"A couple of years ago a whale came right down the coast, he swung around, I could see this big eye looking at me and I thought, 'how the hell did I shoot those years ago'. And it did something to me," he said.

The whales, which begin their journey in Antarctic waters before passing through Cook Strait to warmer waters north of New Zealand, have seen a big increase in their numbers when compared to last year, DOC said.

Rare white whale seen in Cook Strait Source: 1 NEWS

In just three weeks there has been 122 sightings, last year there was just 104.