Bees are fish, California appellate court rules

June 2, 2022


Bees can be classified as fish in accordance with California law, a state appellate court ruled on Tuesday.

The California Endangered Species Act (CESA) does not include insects as a type of endangered species. However, the California Fish and Game Code lists invertebrate as a subset of fish, and fish can be protected under CESA.

In attempt to ensure protections for four bumblebee species, the California Fish and Game Commission designated those bees as candidate species, doing so by listing them as types of fish, under the invertebrate subset. State almond growers then challenged the classification of a bee as a fish in a lawsuit.

Sacramento County Judge James Arguelles ruled in favor of the almond growers, finding that Fish and Game could not classify bees as fish. Then on Tuesday, the California Court of Appeal’s Third Appellate District reversed Arguelles’s decision, ruling that a “liberal interpretation” of CESA is justified.

The appellate court’s ruling states the Fish and Game Commission has the authority to list an invertebrate as an endangered or threatened species.

“We next consider whether the Commission’s authority is limited to listing only aquatic invertebrates. We conclude the answer is, “no,” the ruling continues. “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 in (section 45 of Fish and Game Code) is not so limited. We acknowledge the scope of the definition is ambiguous but also recognize we are not interpreting the definition on a blank slate. The legislative history supports the liberal interpretation of (CESA) that the Commission may list any invertebrate as an endangered or threatened species.”

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You can’t make this garbage up a Bee is not a fish it doesn’t live and swim in the water if it did the fish would eat it. Where are these nut jobs coming from.

There coming from a position of ignorance. This once again proves it.

I’ve never had an endangered fish, splatter on the windshield…

Something to consider: The Bumble Bee hives are usually in the ground so if you get a building permit, you may need to have the ground surveyed for bumble bees first (up goes the cost and forever property tax) or possibly be subjected to no project as with the Banded Snail in Los Osos.

Best action is to spray all your property before applying for a permit and check for any unwanted animal guest as well and clear your land before “inviting” any government employee onto said property.

Absent from the article is the word pesticide or the causes of bee decline that Fish and Game think they can remedy that are contained in the Apiary Protection Act AB450. There already is an agency called the “California Department of Pesticide Regulation, also known as DPR or CDPR, is one of six boards and departments of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA)…field enforcement (with the assistance of 55 county agricultural commissioners) of laws regulating pesticide use”.

This additional move by Fish and Game must be to use Game Wardens to redundantly enforce laws we already have to hassle farmers and coated seed sellers. This extension to Fish and Game is an admission that the CDPR is failing with the regulation of pesticides and fungicides during blossom season. So, apparently the next step is to overreach and overlap Fish and Game that has powers to seize property, because the CDPR is failing to improve bee population with fines? I just checked both the CDPR Facebook and Twitter pages and there is no mention of this encroachment by Fish and Game. This encroachment also appears to trigger each county to spend time and money on a bumble bee protection/mitigation plan that they will be submitting to the state. How much more redundant bureaucracy are we getting here?

I agree wholeheartedly that we should protect the bees, but I weep for California.

So in law school today do they teach you that if its not written law to just make it up?….

If you thought building in CA wasn’t already difficult it just became impossible, anything can be denied because at one time an endangered bee flew on the property.

Wouldn’t it be better to amend the law to include non-aquatic vertebrates versus a “liberal” interpretation by a judge who doesn’t know the difference between a fish and a bee? I thought that’s how the system was supposed to work.

The court ruling is a fascinating read (for a dork like me). It documents a flurry of activity around this in the 1980s when government staff were pouring over whether or not to add “invertebrates” to the act (other than the use of the term invertebrates in relation to “fish” – which are CLEARLY aquatic/marine invertebrates and don’t include inverts like bees).

There is a quote from a final decision on the matter from staff (I think CDFW) that is included in the ruling research by the court that I think probably sums up this mess quite nicely:

It was thought that adding this term [invertebrates] to the definitions would clarify the Commission’s authority to include invertebrates among the animals that it listed as endangered and threatened, but after further consideration, the Department has concluded that sufficient authority currently exists and that adding the term invertebrates in the legislation would only serve to confuse the matter. For example, to have included the term would have required that, for consistency, all other references in the Fish and Game Code to the various groups of animals be amended to add the term invertebrates, as necessary.

Fish is a slippery term, and calling something like a mussel or a shrimp a fish is kind of OK (we refer to them as shellfish all the time). But bees (or butterflies, or beetles, or ants, etc…) just are not fish by ANYONES definition of the plain english. It’s absurb! So, in other words, they couldn’t be bothered going through the other sections of F&G Code to reflect the amendment, so they didn’t bother. What a text-book example of poor decision making by policy writers and makers. Here we are DECADES later still tripping over our own feet.

Executive branch bureaucracies and judicial branch courts aren’t supposed to be making law. Perhaps the Legislature should draft better, more specifically tailored law instead of forfeiting broad discretional powers to authority-obsessed unelected officials.