A three-judge panel on the State’s Third Appellate District Court ruled unanimously in favor of allowing bees to be legally considered under the same umbrella definition as fish.
“The issue presented here is whether the bumble bee, a terrestrial invertebrate, falls within the definition of fish, as that term is used in the definitions of endangered species” in California’s Endangered Species Act, the court wrote in its ruling.
The ruling arose after four bumblebee species were at risk of becoming endangered. This led the California Fish and Game Commission to make a motion in 2019 to protect the bees under the act, according to Law & Crime. The motion was opposed by local agricultural groups, which argued that the act does not allow the commission to designate insects as endangered, threatened, or candidate species due to them not being included in the act’s wildlife categories.
The commission countered this argument, saying that the definitions provided include insects under the act’s definition of fish due to one species of snail being considered threatened under the act. The act defines fish as “a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals.” Since a bee is defined as an invertebrate, it would thus be legally understandable to define the bumblebees as fish, the commission argued.
The appeals panel court, reversing a lower-court decision, agreed. “Although the term fish is colloquially and commonly understood to refer to aquatic species, the term of art employed by the Legislature in the definition of fish … is not so limited,” the court argued. “Accordingly, a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumble bee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species under the Act.”
The ruling could open the door for Californians to define a multitude of insects as fish, as long as they meet the requirements of being an invertebrate.
First published in Washington Examiner, https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/policy/courts/california-appeals-court-rules-bees-are-fish