Bees are now legally fish in the state of California

The court of appeals in the third appellate district in the state of California has ruled that bees are, in fact, fish. From the court document (emphasis added):

The California Endangered Species Act (Act) (Fish & G. Code,§ 2050 et seq.) directs the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to "establish a list of endangered species and a list of threatened species." (§ 2070.) 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 in section 2062, threatened species in section 2067, and candidate species (i.e., species being considered for listing as endangered or threatened species) in section 2068 of the Act. More specifically, we must determine whether the Commission exceeded its statutorily delegated authority when it designated four bumble bee species as candidate species under consideration for listing as endangered species.

The court's real concern here was whether the state's Fish and Game Commission have a legal obligation to protect four bumblebee species that are currently at risk of being endangered. As the blog Law & Crime explained:

That danger mostly comes from the activities of huge agricultural interests. In 2019, the California Fish and Game Commission moved to protect those bees, the Crotch, Franklin's, Western, and Suckley's cuckoo, by designating them as endangered, threatened, and candidate species under three sections of the CESA.

Almond growers, citrus farmers, cotton ginners, and other agricultural groups sued. They argued that the CESA does not allow the Commission to designate any insects as endangered, threatened, or candidate species because insects are not included in the statute's enumerated categories of wildlife entitled to such legal protections.

Perhaps most interestingly, it turns out there's even an existing legal precedent for classifying a bumblebee as a fish. The state had previously classified the trinity bristle snail as "threatened" all the way back in 1980 — thus establishing that "fish" is in fact a "legal term of art" that includes other terrestrial invertebrates as well.

Unanimous Three-Judge Panel Rules Bees Are 'Fish': 'We Are Tasked with Liberally Construing' the California Endangered Species Act [Colin Kalmbacher/ Law & Crime]