Sam Morgan was attacked by a shark at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, on November 10, 2015. Photo Contributed Facebook
Sam Morgan was attacked by a shark at Lighthouse Beach, Ballina, on November 10, 2015. Photo Contributed Facebook Contributed

What has changed since the shark attack on Sam Morgan?

EXACTLY one year ago 20-year-old Ballina surfer Sam Morgan was attacked off Lighthouse Beach, putting a young man's life at risk and yet again putting the North Coast in an unwanted spotlight as a shark attack hotspot.

It was during a late afternoon surf at North Wall that the aspiring pro surfer's left thigh was badly mauled by a suspected bull shark he had seen swimming past only moments earlier.

Surrounded by surfers following the attack, the young man was helped to shore and stabilised on the beach by an off-duty nurse.

Changes to ambulance protocols following a previous attack that year had allowed paramedics and the Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter to carry vital life-saving blood supplies which helped save his life.

He was put into an induced coma, flown to the Gold Coast University Hospital, and was in an officially stable condition the next day.

In the days that followed as the family rallied to support their popular son, a crowdfunding campaign on Gofundme raised almost $7000 to support his recovery.

The attack marked the ninth that year recorded on the North Coast between Evans Head and Byron Bay.

It followed the savaging of Mat Lee at Lighthouse Beach in July and Craig Ison off Evans Head in August by great whites, and in February that year Japanese expat and Ballina local Tadashi Nakahara had lost his life to a white.


Following the attack on Mr Morgan, the NSW Government and the Department of Primary Industries went into overdrive to do something about shark problem on the North Coast.

The initial response was to embrace trials of new, more eco-friendly measures to balance human protection with marine preservation.

The thinking was that while humans had a right to enjoy the waves, so to did sharks have a right to live freely, just as they have done so for millions of years.

"Smart" drum lines were deployed to tag and track the local white population in an effort to learn more about the mysterious apex predators.

In the last year since November 10, the DPI has tagged 48 white sharks and 15 bull sharks.

The DPI also deployed a series of 4G acoustic buoys to detect any tagged sharks off Clarkes Beach, Lennox Head, Sharpes Beach, Lighthouse Beach and Evans Head.

A much-hyped trial of "eco" shark barriers was also attempted, but then discontinued, off Lighthouse Beach and Seven Mile Beach at Lennox.

But unfortunately none of those measures seemed to alleviate the threat of another shark attack in Ballina.


Almost one year on, it took another shark attack, this time on 17-year-old Cooper Allen in late September for the NSW Government to commit to trialling old-fashioned shark nets off the North Coast.

Only time will tell if this is successful.

But 365 days after Sam Morgan's ordeal, it's no secret that sharks are still a very present fear for surfers brave enough to head out for a wave off Ballina's beaches.


In a statement, Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said the $16 million shark management strategy had seen an "unprecedented focus on increasing use of traditional shark measures, and also investment into new and untested technologies".

"We are currently rolling out an arsenal of 100 smart drumlines, prioritised for the North Coast, have increased aerial surveillance, are trialling drones and will also test traditional mesh nets on the North Coast - all of these measures are designed to make our waters safer.

"At all stages during the implementation of our Shark Management Strategy we have consulted with the communities of the North Coast, and we've said all options are on the table - that remains our approach, and we will continue to modify our strategy as required based on community need.

"Just this week we have introduced legislation into the NSW Parliament to allow our six-month trial of traditional nets to commence, because while marine life is important, human life must be our top priority.

"We can never entirely reduce the risk of shark attack, but we are committed to doing everything we can to make our beaches safer."

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