Only in California can a panel of judges decide that bees can now be classified as…fish.
This bizarre decision by a panel of California judges was celebrated as a “win for the bumblebees”.
This decision reversed a previous decision made by the lower courts favoring the interest of California agricultural groups’ that argued the state’s Endangered Species Act only protected birds, mammals, fish, reptiles, amphibians, and plants, but didn’t protect bees and other bugs.
This was a big win for California environmental groups and California’s Fish and Gaming Commission, which has been pushing to classify bumble bees as an endangered species. But fish?
In the court’s opinion, they gave the commission the right to list invertebrate species like bumble bees as an endangered species, even though they are not aquatic. The judges wrote, “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.
According to Matthew Sanders of Stanford Law School’s Environmental Law Clinic, the decision is “a win for the bumblebees, all imperiled invertebrates in California, and the California Endangered Species Act.”
California Appeals Court Rules That Bees Are Now Fish So They Can Be Included Under Endangered Species Act https://t.co/pHOTQKIM13— Not the Bee (@Not_the_Bee) June 1, 2022
Insects are “foundational to California’s agricultural production and healthy ecosystems,” he told Reuters.
This dispute over how to classify bumble bees in order to protect them dates back to 2018, when the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, the Center for Food Safety, and Defenders of Wildlife petitioned the state of California to consider protecting four species of native bumble bees under the state’s Endangered Species Act. Due to habitat loss, disease, and the use of pesticides, their species have become imperiled and their numbers have plummeted.
California’s endangered species law defines candidates for protection as “bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile or plant.” The statute does not cover insects, including bees.
However, Insects are invertebrates, meaning, they do not have a backbone, and neither do crabs, sea urchins, and starfish. And since section 45 of California’s Fish and Game Code defines “fish” as “wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, or amphibian”, bees can be protected under section 45 as invertebrates, hence, bees are now fish in the state of California. The state “may list any invertebrate as an endangered or threatened species,” Associate Justice Ronald Robie wrote, joined by justices Cole Blease and Andrea Lynn Hoch.
Rebecca Spector, who is the west coast director at the Center for Food Safety said in a statement, “With one out of every three bites of food we eat coming from a crop pollinated by bees, this court decision is critical to protecting our food supply. The decision clarifies that insects such as bees qualify for protections under CESA, which are necessary to ensure that populations of endangered species can survive and thrive.”
There is no dispute on the importance of bumble bees as pollinators. They are essential to our very survival. Simply put, the bees die, then eventually, so does the human race. Protecting them is absolutely in our best interest. Our very survival depends on it, even if we have to disguise bumble bees as fish.