Champion surfer in coma after shark attack in New South Wales

Australian surfer Sam Morgan in the water on an earlier date. He was bitten by a shark on Tuesday while surfing off the coast of New South Wales, which has had 14 shark attacks this year.
Australian surfer Sam Morgan in the water on an earlier date. He was bitten by a shark on Tuesday while surfing off the coast of New South Wales, which has had 14 shark attacks this year.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

SYDNEY • A champion junior surfer mauled by a shark off Australia's east coast has had surgery and been put into an induced coma, as the area's locals said the government was not doing enough to protect beachgoers.

Police said Mr Sam Morgan, 20, was heard screaming during the attack, believed to be by a bull shark estimated to be about 3m long.

"He was the only surfer in the water. A person on the beach heard him scream and saw him stumble out of the water," local police inspector Nicole Bruce told the Sydney Morning Herald.

"He came out of the water with a large bite wound on his left thigh."

The Ballina region, where Mr Morgan was bitten on Tuesday evening, has been the site of a spate of serious attacks in recent months including the death of a Japanese surfer in February.

A total of 14 shark attacks have taken place this year in Australia's most populous state, New South Wales, where the tourist spot of Ballina is located, prompting the state government to implement a five-year plan to monitor the sea creatures.

But Ballina mayor David Wright said the government needed to introduce more aerial patrols, shark nets and lifeguards in the region immediately.

"(We need them) because we're going to have people in the water and we've got to make it as safe as possible," Mr Wright told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation in comments echoed by the head of a local surfing club.

Australian surf champion Mick Fanning - who made global headlines when he dramatically escaped a shark attack on live television while competing in a surfing event in South Africa in July - said it was "hard to take in" the number of attacks which happened in the state this year.

"There's so much activity on the Australian east coast. In the past couple of years, it's happening more and more," he told Sydney's Daily Telegraph.

"We need to figure out what it is and a way to deter it."

The government's suite of measures to reduce attacks ahead of the busy summer months includes drones circling popular swimming spots and the deployment of sophisticated sonar systems.

New South Wales, which has ruled out the culling of the animals as an option, has also sent scientists from the primary industries department to tag sharks in the Ballina region.

Experts say attacks are increasing as water sports become more popular and bait fish move closer to shore.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 12, 2015, with the headline 'Champion surfer in coma after shark attack in New South Wales'. Print Edition | Subscribe