Bees are now officially recognized as fish in California thanks to a ruling by the California Court of Appeal. The third district court ruled on May 31 that bees are legally fish based on the definition provided by the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The act prohibits importation, exportation, sale, purchase and possession of over 250 plant and animal species. However, the clear identification of these species has been a subject of push and pull between conservationists and other interested parties.
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In 2018, environmentalists requested the California Fish and Game Commission to add four species of bees to the list of at-risk species protected by CESA. The commission agreed and issued a notice that the four species of bumblebees would be protected by the act. In response, citrus and almond farmers joined hands with other farmers who were affected by the move and filed a lawsuit. They wanted the court to revert the decision, citing that bees were not fish.
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In reference to the act, the court ruled that bees are fish. According to the CESA, the word fish refers to “a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn or ovum of any of those animals.” From the definition, the court stated that the term invertebrate could refer to any animal without a backbone. Consequently, the court ruled that bees could qualify to be called fish under this definition.
“We certainly agree section 45 is ambiguous as to whether the legislature intended for the definition of fish to apply to purely aquatic species,” the court’s decision explained. “A fish, as the term is commonly understood in everyday parlance, of course, lives in aquatic environments.”
Experts say that although the ruling was correct, there is a challenge with the wording of the act for ordinary people. Environmentalists, on the other hand, welcomed the move, celebrating it as a victory on their side. It is expected that more activists will try to use this ruling to introduce more insects to the endangered species act.
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