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Castaway’s sea days are over - for now

San Salvador - A fisherman from El Salvador who says he spent 13 months adrift in the Pacific Ocean, surviving on turtle blood and fish and birds caught with his bare hands, vowed he would not venture back out to sea as he left hospital on Tuesday.

Jose Salvador Alvarenga, 37, was found in January on a remote coral atoll in the Marshall Islands, saying he had survived at sea for more than a year.

Castaway fisherman Jose Salvador Alvarenga (second right) hugs his mother Maria Julia Alvarenga (right) and his father Ricardor Orellana (second left) while leaving the hospital in Santa Tecla, on the outskirts of San Salvador. Credit: Reuters

“No. For the moment, no,” Alvarenga said, telling reporters he will not return to the sea as he left the hospital with family members, stopping to raise his hand in a victory sign.

El Salvador's health minister, Maria Isabel Rodriguez, escorted the fisherman from the hospital and said he would not need surgery for a spinal injury. She said Alvarenga was so shaken by the ordeal that he may not return to his coastal home.

“I don't know if it was decided that he'll be taken to another house, because of the problem he had of fear of the sea,” Rodriguez said.

Alvarenga, a fisherman for 15 years, told officials he set sail on a shark-fishing trip from Mexico in late December 2012, but was blown out to sea. He washed up 10 000km away in the Marshall Islands.

He was found in a disoriented state on a remote coral atoll in his 7.3m fibreglass boat.

He said he set off with another fisherman, who died weeks into their ordeal.

Alvarenga was barely able to speak when he arrived back in El Salvador a week ago and he could only manage “yes” or “no” answers to questions from journalists on Tuesday.

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