Police and NSW surf lifesavers at Shelly Beach following the attack. Photo: Marc Stapelberg/The Northern Star

A 41-year old Japanese national has died from wounds inflicted by a shark at Shelly Beach near Ballina, on the north coast of New South Wales, Australia.

Both of the man's legs were bitten off in the attack, which occurred around 10am this morning, local time, and he died at the scene due to loss of blood as he was attended to by paramedics. His identity has not yet been officially confirmed, but he is believed to be a well-known figure in the local surfing community who had been living in the Ballina area for around a year. Talk on online message boards suggests the man's name was probably Tadashi.

"We believe he was surfing with up to four men, two were very close to him, they rendered assistance and brought him to shore," said Detective Inspector Cameron Lindsay, speaking to ABC. "Two other surfers paddled in to help out and help with the injuries. Unfortunately they could not stop the bleeding and at this stage we believe he died of blood loss."

"We are now concentrating on searching the area and seeing if we can locate that shark," Inspector Lindsay continued. "We believe it was a very large shark. The expert will assist us to determine what type of shark it was. Once we know what type of shark it is and receive advice on whether or not that shark poses a threat to humans, then we'll assess what we'll do about the shark."

Local surfer Alan Baldock told the Australian Guardian “it went whack and he was thrown into the air ... it must have been a huge, huge shark."

Robert Macon, a commenter on the Stab message boards, wrote: "Surfers at the scene were truely courageous at getting him out of the water and frantically trying to save him." Robert said a friend of his was in the water next to the victim at the time of the attack:

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"Really horrifying to whitness on a day that wasnt sharky at all.The water was clean and there were quite a few guys out on a beautifull sunny offshore morning.The shark swam under my mate and smashed the guy next to him out of the water taking both legs off completely.Full credit to the guys that took him straight to the nearby shore line applied leg ropes and administed CPR untill the ambo's arrived .We are all deeply affected and devistated by the violent way our surfing comrade was taken. RIP MATE"

Inspector Lindsay also hailed the bravery of the surfers who risked their lives to help the victim. “I think their actions are commendable," he said. "Here we have a situation where [there is] a significant amount of blood in the water, they took to rescue this surfer, bring him in on shore."

Another commenter on the Stab message boards wrote: "Tadashi was an old friend of mine. Awesome guy, positive attitude, always laughing with a young family. RIP ol' mate."

The sentiment was echoed by a further commenter: "Goodbye tadashi! Top bloke, avid surfer , heart of gold ! We use to work together .. And always bring me sweets and treats from his holidays in Japan ! I will miss you beautiful soul! My thoughts are with his family and his beloved child that was hoping to bring in this country soon or later :((("

Shelly Beach, which .... Photo: Bruce MacKenzie/ABC

On Sunday a 35-year old man was attacked by a shark whilst surfing at Seven Mile Beach,  just 20 km north of Shelly Beach. Jabez Reitman was knocked off his board and bitten on the back and shoulder, but he was able to drive himself to hospital despite the profuse bleeding.

Dr Daniel Bucher, a shark expert from South Cross University, doubted that the same shark was responsible for both incidents. "Looking at the injuries from the fellow who was bitten on the shoulder, they look like a much smaller shark," he said. "Certainly if it does prove that the second attack was a Great White then I can certainly say they were different fish, because the first attack was definitely not a Great White judging by the wounds."

All beaches from South Ballina to Lennox Head have been closed, say police. Yesterday's was the third fatal shark attack in New South Wales in the last 10 months. The previous fatality occurred in September at Byron Bay, also on the north coast, when British national Paul Wilcox was mauled by a great white shark.