Skipper says bite victim in ‘wrong place at wrong time’
THE captain of a vessel has spoken about the immediate aftermath of when a shark reportedly bit crew member Anika Craney while swimming off Fitzroy Island that left her being taken to Cairns Hospital.
The 29-year-old woman, who lost her home in the Carbago bushfire earlier this year, sustained laceration to her left ankle and possible fracture after swimming near Welcome Bay off a private boat, Barefoot II, on Tuesday.
Skipper Dean Cropp, who used to live in Port Douglas, said she was part of a five-member crew who arrived in the Far North only after the border reopened on July 10, to film an online documentary series about marine life.
"It was a day off as we were waiting for the weather to improve and a couple of the girls swam to shore to check out the island," Mr Cropp said.
"As they got close, a shark grabbed her on the ankle and she kicked at it.
"As soon as I got to her, she was very adamant that it shouldn't turn out to be a 'kill sharks' rhetoric."
Mr Cropp said Ms Craney, who had joined the crew only recently and been working with sharks for the past three months, initially told him it might have been a whaler or tiger shark but "didn't really get a good look at it".
"She's a very experienced freediver and has dealt with sharks in the past two years," Mr Cropp said.
"They're not something we're fearful of but we do respect them."
Asked about what may have led up to the reported shark bite, Mr Cropp said he suspected a commercial trawler moored nearby may have triggered it after Ms Craney swam past it.
"The attack happened about 30-40m from the fishing boat," Mr Cropp said.
"A couple of guests on the island saw him (trawler operator) filleting fish earlier in the day.
"For a commercial fishing boat to come in and release part of their catch is not on."
Mr Cropp said he and his crew did not blame the shark.
"What we do know about sharks, they do come in and react like that when there's food around. She was just in the wrong place at the wrong time."
Asked about Ms Craney's condition, Mr Cropp said he spoke to her when she arrived at the hospital and she was "in high spirits".
"A bit groggy from all the drugs, but she continues to say that we shouldn't blame sharks because we're in their world," he said.
"It's been a tough year for her, but she is more concerned the boat doesn't leave without her than her injuries right now.
"I offered she move onto the boat earlier this year when she lost her home.
"She loves freediving because she loves marine animals."
Association of Marine Park Tourism Operators' Gareth Phillips said the fishing boat Ms Craney had been swimming near had endorsement to fillet out at sea.
Mr Phillips said it was possible water had washed into open scuppers on the boat, causing fish remnants to wash into the water, which could have lured the offending animal.
"It's important to highlight this wasn't someone going over in their tinnie and being attacked, this was extenuating circumstances," he said.
Originally published as Skipper says bite victim in 'wrong place at wrong time'