Humpback whale numbers are on the rise with about 20,000 expected to travel along the Queensland coast during their annual migration from July to October.

Queenslanders are more likely to spot whales splashing in waters off the central coast this season thanks to the ban on commercial whaling.

Researchers say humpbacks are arriving at Keppel Bay, near Rockhampton, in numbers not seen in several decades.

The International Whale Commission banned commercial whaling in 1986 to conserve depleted species.

Southern Cross University (SCU) Professor Peter Harrison says more than 20,000 whales will cross the bay’s shallow waters during their annual migration from Antarctica to their breeding grounds in the Great Barrier Reef.

“Australia’s humpback whale populations are increasing rapidly and are recovering as a result of the ban on commercial whaling,” he said.

The migration period runs from July until October when the whales make the return journey to their southern feasting grounds.

Only last weekend two groups of humpback whales were spotted heading north a few hundred metres of Bluff Rock near Yeppoon.

Prof Harrison, director of SCU’s Marine Ecology Research Centre, warns boaties to be extra careful on the water due to the rise in whale numbers.

The professor and other researchers are monitoring whale populations at Keppel Bay with a view to shaping how the mammals are looked after and managed throughout the world.