SYDNE (AFP) - A champion junior surfer was in an induced coma on Wednesday (Nov 11) after being mauled by a shark off Australia's east coast, as locals said the government was not doing enough to protect beachgoers.
The Ballina region, where the 20-year-old was bitten by a suspected bull shark 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 animals.
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," he 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 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 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 the Daily Telegraph in Sydney.
"We need to figure out what it is and a way to deter them."
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.
The state, which has ruled out culling the animals as an option, has also sent scientists from the primary industries department to tag sharks in the Ballina region.
The police said the young surfer mauled on Tuesday - named in local media as Sam Morgan - was heard screaming during the attack by the animal 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 has come out of the water with a large bite wound to his left thigh."
Morgan was flown by helicopter to a nearby hospital for surgery and on Wednesday was in a stable condition in an induced coma, police added.
Experts say attacks are increasing as water sports become more popular and bait fish move closer to shore. However, fatalities remain rare.