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07/18/2023 Cristian Castaño Villa San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina.

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07/18/2023 Cristian Castaño Villa San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina.

Post by alb »

Oceanic whitetip shark bites competitive freediver

Colombian freediver Cristian Castaño Villa has been bitten by what was reported to be an oceanic whitetip shark, while he was depth-training near the southern Caribbean archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina.

The incident occurred at around mid-day on 18 July at a dive-site called Nirvana, but the freediver survived the encounter to the extent that he later posted a photo showing his bandaged leg and hands with the boast: “They should see how the shark turned out!”

Castaño, 38, has claimed 25 Colombian freediving records. He is currently rated by governing body AIDA as second nationally in the Constant Weight with and without fins disciplines, and third using bi-fins, in Free Immersion and in Static Apnea. A member of the national team, he had been in training off San Andrés for the CMAS depth outdoor world championships in Roatan next month.
Shark seen from the boatShark seen from the boat

Castaño and his fellow-freedivers had been surprised to encounter several oceanic whitetips, according to Coralina, the Colombian agency responsible for sustainable development of the archipelago, which is a UNESCO biosphere reserve covering the three islands, five atolls and coral reefs.

“One of the sharks bit – out of curiosity – one of the freedivers,” it reported, paying tribute to the quick reactions of its local staff in effecting a rescue.

It reported that Castaño had remained conscious and was able to use his limbs following the bites, including pulling himself back onto the dive-boat and climbing an exit ladder. Taken to hospital on the mainland, he was stitched up without complications and discharged that night.
Castaño on the side of the boatCastaño on the side of the boat
The freediver was still able to climb the exit ladderCould have been worse: the freediver was still able to climb the exit ladder

There is however a possibility that human intervention has affected shark behaviour in the area. In March 2022, Italian swimming instructor Antonio Straccialini, 56, died at San Andres after a 2.5m tiger shark bit his leg. The fatality had prompted Coralina to warn local tour operators to stop dumping animal carcasses in the sea to attract sharks for visitors.

“It is important to remind the community that sharks are in their natural habitat and it is humans who enter their domain – so there is a need to have greater respect for nature and take precautions against such encounters,” said Coralina following the recent incident.

And the agency went even further in defence of the animals by adding: “Let’s also remember that sharks are protected by national and local regulations, and anyone who is caught trying to attack them may be subject to environmental and judicial sanctions, extending even to prison sentences.”

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