A California appeals court ruled Tuesday that bees can be classified as fish under the state’s Endangered Species Act (CESA) in a blow to agriculture groups.
The Sacramento-based three-judge panel ruled that four species of bumblebees found across California are technically fish since they are invertebrates, according to the decision in a case concerning the species’ protected status that pitted the state government against agriculture groups. The court added that the term fish shouldn’t be confined to “aquatic” invertebrates under the CESA.
“We acknowledge the scope of the definition is ambiguous but also recognize we are not interpreting the definition on a blank slate,” the appellate court’s ruling stated. “The legislative history supports the liberal interpretation of the Act (the lens through which we are required to construe the Act) that the Commission may list any invertebrate as an endangered or threatened species.”
“Furthermore, limiting the term to aquatic would require a restrictive rather than liberal interpretation of the Act, which is also directly at odds with our duty to liberally construe the remedial statutes contained therein,” the panel continued. “We thus decline to apply the statutory interpretation canon here.”
In 2019, the California Fish and Game Commission (FGC) voted 3-1 in favor of listing the Crotch, Franklin’s, Suckley cuckoo and western bumble bees as endangered species, marking the first time insect species were given such protection. The Almond Alliance of California, which represents the state’s almond industry, formed a coalition of various agriculture groups opposing the classification and arguing it would impose a massive financial burden on nut growers who use pesticides, the Pacific Nut Producer reported.
The CESA statute lists “native species or subspecies of a bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant” as candidates for protection.
The appellate court’s ruling Tuesday overturned a 2020 lower court decision siding with the Almond Alliance of California.
The Almond Alliance of California and FGC didn’t respond to requests for comment from The Daily Caller News Foundation.
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