Shark Fin Ban: The Free Market Won't Protect Sharks, So California Has to

Last Monday, California issued a statewide ban on the sale and purchase of shark fin meat. The ban comes after an 18-month grace period in which all vendors were expected to remove their supply from their markets. The legislation also connects the Golden State with six others hoping to preserve a shark population that has been unprecedentedly reduced, primarily by a Chinese middle class that for the first time ever is able to afford the expensive delicacy for ceremonial and celebratory culinary events.

These events, however, are said to induce the slaughter of over 73 million sharks a year in the process of finning — a barbaric ritual in which the prized fins are sliced from live sharks, which are then thrown back into the ocean in their debilitated state to drown.

So in the aftershock of the bill, ecologists are rejoicing, Chinese traditionalists are moping, and free market fanatics are making this an issue of tyrannical government injustice.

But you know what? I'm tired of this free market argument.

Sometimes, it takes a greater power to decide what's right and what's wrong. Are we up in arms about banning racial segregation from private establishments? Are we livid that many U.S. states have issued a ban on smoking indoors in private establishments? No, because we have concluded as a nation that those things are "bad".

So even though it's been pretty well researched and reported that destruction of shark populations is a major problem for oceanic ecosystems as well as for all life on earth — 70% of our oxygen comes from life in the seas — we still are not yet ready to call eating shark fin "bad."

I understand Chinese shops being upset, but not unaffected right-wing businessmen trying to make this a case against unfair government infringement. Sometimes, we need somebody else to let us know what's good and what's bad, and in this case the Californian government is fully justified in educating its people.