The California Court of
Appeals recently ruled that some types of bees are now legally considered to be…fish. That bizarre decision 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 insects. Proponents hailed
the decision as “a win for bumblebees,” but the decision bugs me.
Back in 2018, the “Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation,” Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety all petitioned the Golden State’s Fish and Game Commission to add the Crotch’s bumblebee, Franklin’s bumblebee, Suckley Cuckoo bumblebee, and Western bumblebee to the state’s endangered species list.
The Court’s 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,” according to a Fox News report. The Commission subsequently designated the four bees as “candidate species,” providing them interim protection while considering whether to classify them as endangered.
Then the Almond Alliance of California, the California Farm Bureau Federation, and five other agricultural groups filed a lawsuit in Sacramento County Superior Court in an attempt to clarify that the California Endangered Species Act 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.
But this is 2022, and the Appeals Court decided that invertebrates, too, can be endangered and worthy of protection. If that is the case, California’s Republicans, another invertebrate species-- who truly are an endangered species-- should be added to the list, as well.
In any case, perhaps the bees identify as fish. Who are we to tell them otherwise?