An El Salvadoran fisherman who survived at sea for almost 15 months is being sued by his shipmate’s family – for allegedly eating him to survive.

In January 2014 Jose Salvador Alvarenga was found on the Ebon atoll in the Marshall Islands, some 438 days and 6,500 miles from Mexico where he had set off, accompanied by Ezekiel Cordoba on November 17, 2012.

Mr Cordoba who Alvarenga had paid $50 to accompany him on the fishing trip, did not survive the voyage. Now his family is suing Alvarenga for $1 million, claiming that he ate Mr Cordoba, 22, while they were adrift at sea. Mr Alvarenga denies the claims. “I never thought of cannibalism,” he told ElSalvador.com.

Rosalia Diaz Cueto, mother of Ezekiel Cordoba, holds a photo of her dead son.

The 2012 fishing trip had been intended to be just two days long, but something went horribly wrong during bad weather. The men went missing, presumed lost at sea, until Alvarenga reappeared in the remote Marshall Islands in 2014.

Alvarenga, who had lived in Mexico for 15 years, claimed that he had survived by eating fish and birds, as well as drinking turtle blood and urine. According to ElSalvador.com Ezekiel Cordoba died after just four months because he couldn’t digest the raw meat they were eating.

His body has never been found. “His departure was very hard for me, and I continued talking to him. On the sixth day I realized that I was going crazy, so I prayed for him and threw the body into the water," Alvarenga said.

Before he died Mr Cordoba made Alvarenga promise not to eat his corpse and, if he survived, to find his mother and tell her what had happened.

Alvarenga kept his second promise. At the time, Ezekiel Cordoba’s mother, Rosalia Diaz Cueto, did not blame Alvarenga for her son’s death. “I want it understood that I am not blaming this person, Alvarenga, nor am I declaring him guilty of anything,” Associated Press reported her as saying following their 2014 meeting.

Now all that has changed. Because it’s a civil lawsuit, Alvarenga has not been charged with any crimes and his lawyer, Ricardo Cucalon, feels that the suit is financially motivated as it coincides with the release of a book – written by American author Jonathan Franklin - detailing Alvarenga’s amazing story.