Surfer stable after shark attack at Australian beach
Canberra, Australia — A teenage surfer was in stable condition after he was bitten by a shark Monday at the same Australian beach where a Japanese surfer was fatally mauled last year, officials said.
Cooper Allen, a 17-year-old high school student, was surfing with friends on the first day of the students’ spring vacation when he was attacked off Ballina’s Lighthouse Beach at midmorning, Ballina Mayor David Wright said.
The shark struck from behind and bit across the board’s fins as the boy lay on the board paddling. The shark’s lower jaw tore into the fiberglass as its upper teeth clamped his right hip and thigh, Wright said.
“The shark lacerated his leg in three or four places fairly deep,” Wright said. “Luckily the lifeguards were on duty and got down there quickly.”
“He should be OK. It was very close to his artery,” Wright added.
Cooper, a Ballina resident, was taken by ambulance to Lismore Base Hospital, where he was in a stable condition, emergency services said.
Police Detective Chief Inspector Cameron Lindsay said teeth marks on the board suggested a great white shark between 8 to 10 feet long. Police also said a 13-foot great white was spotted off Lighthouse Beach later in the morning.
In February last year, Japanese tourist Tadashi Nakahara, 41, died after losing both his legs to a great white 10 to 13 feet long while surfing at Lighthouse Beach.
Four shark attacks in the Ballina area have required hospital treatment since that tragedy and there have been many more near misses, Wright said.
The state government last month abandoned plans to safeguard Lighthouse Beach with a 770-yard nylon shark barrier.
Three attempted trials “identified significant installation and maintenance issues,” the government said.
Cooper, who had been a friend of Nakahara, told The Australian newspaper in July that such a barrier would be a waste of money.
“We still go out there without the net, at our own choice. I don’t think there is any need for it,” Cooper told The Australian.
Wright said he was in discussions with the state government on Monday to fund surveillance drones to scan the beaches. Tourism is Ballina’s biggest industry and an increase in shark attacks and scares have reduced visitor numbers in recent months.
State Premier Mike Baird said drones would be sent to Ballina and his government was testing other shark protection technologies.
“We can’t guarantee, clearly, at any beach, that people will be safe. But we’ll do everything we can,” Baird told reporters.
All beaches around Ballina, which is on the east coast 350 miles north of Sydney, will be closed for 24 hours after the attack, police said.
The last fatal attack in Australia was in June, when a 60-year-old diver was killed by a large shark off the west coast city of Perth.
Less than a week earlier, a 29-year-old surfer died after his leg was bitten off south of Perth.
Australia has averaged fewer than two deadly attacks per year in recent decades.