Today in California Legal News, Some Bees Are Now Fish

The ruling is intended to protect our pollinating insect friends, not to rock your world culturally, so calm down

The Golden State has long prided itself on being at the vanguard of groundbreaking legislation that sometimes leaves the rest of the country stumped, and this week one California court has carried on that tradition, declaring that, henceforth, certain bees are fish.

The Court of Appeal for California’s Third Appellate District in Sacramento ruled on Tuesday that four species of bees are now legally classified as fish when it comes to protecting the winged insects, WJW reports.

The Almond Alliance of California and other agriculture titans went to court against the California Fish and Game Commission to have it out over whether the agency can define certain bumble bees as fish—a category on the list of endangered species and threatened species in the California Endangered Species Act.

Apparently, the act protects only fauna labeled as “bird, mammal, fish, amphibian, reptile, or plant.”

As Tuesday’s ruling states, “The issue presented here is whether the bumble bee, a terrestrial invertebrate, falls within the definition of fish, as that term is used in the definitions of endangered species… threatened species… and candidate species.”

More specifically, the court had to determine if Fish and Game “exceeded its statutorily delegated authority when it designated four bumble bee species as candidate species under consideration for listing as endangered species.”

The four species in question, for your notes, are the Crotch bumble bee, the Franklin bumble bee, the Suckley cuckoo bumble bee and the Western bumble bee.

The court decided that, yes, “[T]he Commission has the authority to list an invertebrate as an endangered or threatened species.”

And is the Commission’s authority limited to listing only aquatic invertebrates?

“We conclude the answer is, ‘no,'” says the court. “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 is not so limited.”

Before 2015, WJW notes, fish were defined as “wild fish, mollusks or crustaceans, including any part, spawn or ova thereof.” But that year, the legislature modified the definition to read fish “means a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian or part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals.”

If you’re wondering why Big Almond is worried about the government’s ability to protect bees, it’s possibly connected to the fact that almonds are the most valuable crop grown in California, where 80 percent of the world’s supply is produced. To grow that many nuts, it takes literally 90 percent of the nation’s honeybees—billions of them—most of which have to be brought here every year, making them insanely valuable.

So valuable, in fact, that the bees also bring a human crime wave with them every year. In February, just as California’s annual almond mania was kicking into pollination gear, 60,000 bees were nicked from a grocery chain’s fields in Pennsylvania. Within just a few weeks in that same time period, 1,036 beehives worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen from orchards across California.

In the most brazen case, bee rustlers made off with 384 beehives from a field in Mendocino County. California’s beekeepers association offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to their recovery.

Besides, the next time you want one of the tasty nuts, consider the drought. As Bill Maher noted last year, “Almond production alone uses more water than all the humans and businesses in San Francisco and Los Angeles combined. Oranges, tomatoes and strawberries all take about 11 gallons [of water] to make one pound. Almonds? 1900 gallons.”

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