Fisherman Chokes to Death After Accidentally Swallowing Live Fish

Roger Marcelino, a fisherman in the Philippines, died Sunday after accidentally swallowing a live tilapia he'd caught while fishing.

Marcelino, 49, and his 11-year-old son had gone diving for fish in the Paliwan River in the town of Bugasong.

According to Marcelino's wife, he would usually put fish he caught in his mouth so they wouldn't escape while he tried to catch more. She told the Filipino newspaper Tribun-Medan her husband likely accidentally swallowed the fish while it was rapidly thrashing around, trying to escape.

Unfortunately, the fish got stuck in Marcelino's airway. He climbed out of the water and ran home for help, but he and his wife were unable to dislodge the fish.

Marcelino and his son were far apart, so the boy did not see what happened.

Bugasong police told Coconuts Manila that cell reception by the Paliwan River was poor, keeping medical attention from coming to the scene quickly. By the time medics arrived, Marcelino had fainted.

Marcelino was taken via ambulance to the Bugasong Medicare hospital, a little over a mile away, but was declared dead on arrival.

tilapia aquarium stock photo
Nile Tilapia (a.k.a. St. Peter's Fish) in an aquarium. Paul R. Dunn/Getty

While the size of the particular fish that killed Marcelino is unknown, tilapia are can grow as long as two feet. Commonly though, they're between six inches and a foot long.

Tilapia are a hardy fish mainly found in freshwater, though they have a high tolerance for brackish water. Tilapia have become an invasive species, as they have been both accidentally and intentionally introduced into warm-water habitats.

Since 2002, tilapia has become the fourth-most consumed fish in the United States. They're known for being easy to prepare with a mild flavor. Tilapia are low-calorie, low in saturated fat and are a good source of vitamin B12 and potassium.

As they're a vegetarian fish that grow quickly and without much fat, they are not very susceptible to accumulating mercury, a common problem with other types of edible fish.

While fishermen are sometimes killed by their prey, typically much larger creatures are involved: In 2015, a swordfish killed a fisherman in Hawaii by hitting him in the chest with its 3-foot bill. A similar case occurred in Malaysia in 2004.

Earlier this year, three fishermen accidentally hit a giant marlin with their boat off the coast of New South Wales, Australia. The 200-pound fish crashed onto their boat and speared two of them with its snout—one in the right arm and the other in the right shoulder. Both men survived the attack.