In an only-in-California decision, an appeals court in the Golden State has ruled that some types of bees are now legally considered to be fish.
The head-scratching decision by the California Court of Appeals was hailed by proponents as “a win for the bumblebees.”
It reversed a lower court’s ruling in favor of agricultural interests who argued the state’s Endangered Species Act protected only “birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles, and plants” – not bees or other bugs.
The decision was a victory for environmental groups and the state’s Fish and Game Commission, which had pushed to list four bumblebee species as endangered.
The court in its opinion gave the commission the right to list invertebrate species like the bees as “endangered” even if they’re not aquatic animals.
The judges wrote that “although the term fish is colloquially and commonly understood to refer to aquatic species,” the law makes the legal “definition of fish… not so limited,” Fox News reported.
Matthew Sanders of Stanford Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic hailed the decision as “a win for the bumblebees, all imperiled invertebrates in California, and the California Endangered Species Act.”
Insects are “foundational to California’s agricultural production and healthy ecosystems,” he told Reuters.
Sanders’ clients – the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety – petitioned the Fish and Game Commission in 2018 to add the Crotch’s bumblebee, Franklin’s bumblebee, Suckley cuckoo bumblebee, and Western bumblebee to the state’s endangered species.
The commission designated the four as “candidate species,” providing them interim protections while considering whether to classify them as endangered.
However, the Almond Alliance of California, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and five other agricultural groups filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court in a bid to clarify that CESA does not protect insects.
In 2020, the Superior Court ruled that the law’s reference to “invertebrates” had to be read in context, and included only aquatic animals.
Paul Weiland of Nossaman, lead counsel for the agriculture groups, said his clients are “disappointed” and reviewing their legal options.
With Post wires.