Screams were heard shortly before surfer Sam Morgan pulled himself from the water following a shark attack on Tuesday evening.

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Shark attack off NSW coast Image by Elias Levy / CC BY 2.0

Morgan sustained a serious bite wound to his left thigh while surfing at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, on Australia’s northern New South Wales coast. The 20-year-old managed to make it back to shore where he was assisted by bystanders before being flown by helicopter to Gold Coast University Hospital. The surfer underwent surgery and is now in a stable condition.

A shark biologist from the Department of Primary Industries believes a bull shark 2.8 to 3.1 metres in length was responsible, and may have been seen by experts earlier in the day. Ballina Shire Council mayor David Wright claims a helicopter patrolling the area saw a large bull shark near Lighthouse Beach just hours before. Though they alerted a shark-catching boat nearby, authorities were unable to catch the shark as it refused to take the bait.

Surfers off the coast of New South Wales, Australia.

Surfers off the coast of New South Wales, Australia. Image by Tim J. Keegan / CC BY-SA 2.0

As Southern Cross university senior lecturer in marine biology Daniel Bucher explained to the Sydney Morning Herald, “We know coming into late spring early summer that it is breeding season with sharks coming up into estuaries to pup. So the bigger ones are coming in at this time of year…I wouldn’t call it a freak event. If you have lots of people hanging around river mouths surfing someone is going to bump into a bull shark, especially [when] the rain has added to the risk.”

The attack on Morgan is the 12th on this stretch of coastline this year. It follows the release of the New South Wales state government’s five-year plan to reduce the risk of shark attacks in its waters.

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