After an extended trial in Hamptons Municipal Court, Montauk big wave surfer Finn Squalocibo was sentenced to a year in prison and 18 months of community service this week for his role in killing a great white shark in April.
The shark’s death was ruled his fault after it attacked him and took a chunk of his fiberglass board, which ultimately killed the endangered great white. Squalocibo escaped the animal’s jaws unharmed, but jurors agreed he was negligent because the surfer “failed to consider the damage his board could cause in the event of a shark attack.”
Surfing advocates argue that the sentence is unfair, pointing out that Squalocibo did not actively harm the shark, but even if he did, it would’ve been in self-defense. The jury, however, noted in their decision, “If we accept this, what’s to stop people from mowing down piping plovers, eastern tiger salamanders or sperm whales out of quote-unquote self-defense? It would be unmitigated chaos, death and mayhem for our local endangered species.”
Squalocibo and his attorney have promised to mount a vigorous appeal.
Meanwhile, the Hamptons Municipal Board is moving ahead with possible legislation banning any fiberglass surfboards ruled “unsafe” for attacking sharks. Should it get approved, the law would be a landmark win for animal advocates.
“We believe a new law requiring dense, unbreakable wood or foam boards could be very important to protecting our sharks, which can’t help but attack such a delicious-looking shape in the water,” Municipal Board representative Lisa J. Kapotnick explained this week. “But some on the board believe surfers should be allowed to enjoy their sport how they choose, while holding Mr. Squalocibo up as an example and deterrent, showing them that they do so at their own risk.”
The Board expects to make a decision on this matter before summer 2020.