Friends save spearfisherman from shark mauling off Australia

Many experts point to the increased number of people going into the water as a reason for any increase in attacks (AFP Photo/PETER PARKS) (AFP/File)

A shark badly mauled a man spearfishing Saturday in northern Queensland leaving him in serious condition after friends saved his life by pulling him aboard their boat, the ambulance service said.

The 26-year-old suffered severe blood loss with multiple bites to his upper and lower leg, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported.

"Rescue helicopter is transporting to Cairns Hospital with one male patient with serious leg injuries," Queensland Ambulance tweeted.

Cairns resident Glenn Dickson was spearfishing with three friends off Hinchinbrook Island, north of Townsville, where paramedics said they believed he was bitten by either a bull shark or a tiger shark.

His friends were also in the water at the time of the attack but managed to haul him back onto the boat before calling emergency services.

"The initial actions by three friends have definitely saved his life ... because he was losing so much blood," ambulance spokesman Martin Taylor told ABC.

Taylor said they applied a tourniquet to his leg to staunch the blood flow.

"They put a tourniquet up high and tight on his femur and stopped the subsequent bleeding which was quite significant."

Dickson was brought to shore on the boat and treated by paramedics on a jetty before the helicopter arrived.

Fairfax Media said he had gone into surgery in a stable but critical condition.

Experts say shark attacks are increasing as water sports become more popular and bait fish move closer to shore, but fatalities remain rare.

There were 98 shark attacks globally in 2015 -- the highest number ever recorded, according to researchers at the University of Florida, which has been collecting data since 1958. Six of the attacks were fatal.