The body of a 31-year-old spearfisherman from Inarajan who died last week had shark bites----
Village mourns fisherman: Body showed signs of shark bites
By Brett Kelman
Pacific Daily News
The body of a 31-year-old spearfisherman from Inarajan who died last week had shark bites, but those were unlikely the cause of his death, Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Aurelio Espinola said yesterday.
Andrew Duenas went missing last Thursday. His remains, recovered Friday, had semi-circle cuts that look like bite patterns around his torso, Espinola said.
A local fisheries biologist agrees with Espinola that it was unlikely sharks killed the fisherman.
"I have been here for 17 years, and I haven't seen anybody who was killed by sharks," Espinola said.
The village of Inarajan is reeling from Duenas' death, said Mayor Franklin Taitague.
Duenas' immediate family is grieving privately.
Taitague mourns as Duenas' uncle and a former spearfisherman.
Taitague said Duenas used to fish with another nephew, David Siguenza, a spearfisherman who disappeared in the waters off Merizo in November 2008.
Family members camped on the shoreline for five days while authorities swept the sea for Siguenza. Eventually, they had to give up the search.
Each time Taitague drives through his village and sees free divers swimming out to sea, he stifles the urge to swim out and remind them of the dangers they face.
"I am very concerned for their safety," Taitague said yesterday. "These divers, when they go out in the water, perhaps they are kind of challenging Mother Nature's strength. I am very much hoping that our divers will respect the waters and what they can do."
About 20 years ago, Taitague used to spearfish, but he stuck to the shallows and let the big fish escape. He would rather catch two little fish than risk his life trying to nab a big one, he said.
"As much as I don't want to expect any injuries or accidents, sometimes I feel I should swim out there and ask them to be careful," Taitague said. "We can only go as far as remind them of safety."
Brent Tibbatts, a fisheries biologist at the Guam Department of Agriculture, said there's no record of anyone ever being killed by a shark on Guam, he said.
In fact, most of the shark attacks here happen when the animal is provoked or attracted by a bleeding fish that is hooked or speared, Tibbatts said.
Most of the sharks that live near Guam aren't aggressive and the sharks that are aggressive are too small to be very lethal, he said.
It is more likely that a tiger shark bit Duenas after he died from something else, Tibbatts said. Tiger sharks are large enough to attack a person, but are renowned for scavenging, not hunting, he said.
Also, spearfishermen and tiger sharks don't hunt in the same areas. Tiger sharks stay far from the shore, Tibbatts said.
Unlike most hobbies, free diving can become more dangerous with experience, said Gerald "Skip" Perry, a spearfisherman who started diving deeper in 2003.
If you dive deep often, your body learns to ignore the alarms that send normal people rushing to the surface, gasping for air. Experienced divers can stay underwater for too long without discomfort, then pass out on their way to the surface.
In 2007, Perry had to save a fellow spearfisherman who passed out 14 feet from the surface. The fisherman had waited at the bottom for too long and would have died if he was alone, Perry said.
Experienced free divers must learn to head back up before their body tells them to, he said.
"We get seduced into staying too long chasing a big fish. Then we end up shooting a big fish and fighting him to the surface. ... It's not worth it. It's just a hobby and not worth losing your life for a ... fish," Perry said.
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