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The state Supreme Court has ruled that California bumblebees can be protected by law as a species of fish.

The decision, which could have major implications for the state’s agriculture, centers on the cryptic wording and complicated legal history of California’s Endangered Species Act, the predecessor to the federal law.

A court said Wednesday night that it will not hear arguments on whether the California Fish and Game Commission can consider granting protections to a number of bumblebee species whose populations are steadily declining. For the past three years, the state’s almond growers, builders and pesticide companies have argued that bumblebees were delisted because the conservation law does not mention the insects.

However, in writing for the court, Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakawe said that although the law does not use the word “insects”, sections of the law suggest that invertebrates can be classified as fish. She also suggested that the Legislature “is in a position to make any amendments to the law that it deems necessary or helpful” to clarify such ambiguities in the Endangered Species Act.

Cantil-Sakave also cautioned against misinterpreting the decision as “a positive determination by this court that bumblebees are fish as a matter of law.”

Wednesday’s decision was quickly hailed by conservation groups.

“We are thrilled with the California Supreme Court’s decision,” said Sarina Jepsen, director of endangered species for the Xerxes Invertebrate Conservation Society. “Now some of California’s endangered pollinators may be saved from extinction.”

The dispute arose after the coalition v conservation groups led by the Xerces Society, Defenders of Wildlife and the Center for Food Safety filed a petition in 2018 to protect four species: the western bumblebee, Franklin’s bumblebee, Sackley’s cuckoo, and Croc’s bumblebee.

The California Fish and Game Commission voted to begin the listing process, but several agriculture and pesticide companies, including the California Almond Alliance, the California Pest Control Consultants Association and the California Construction Industry Association, challenged the decision.

They worried that listing the four species would open up the possibility of protection for any of California’s more than 1,000 species of native bumblebees, as well as countless other insects.

The dispute does not involve scientifically cultivated honeybees, which California’s agricultural communities depend on to pollinate and produce a third of the nation’s vegetables and most of the world’s almonds.

However, Art agricultural industry complained that some native bees considered by the commission for listing overlap with important agricultural areas where cultivation, planting and harvesting could expose farmers and their workers to liability if protective bees die.

For example, the California Construction Industry Association in court documentssuggested that the right to define terrestrial invertebrates as fish could “effectively criminalize anyone who ever swats a fly, runs over an ant, or eats an aphid hidden in broccoli without a ‘fishing license.'”

In Almond Alliance v. California Fish and Game Commission, the groups complained that the Endangered Species Act expressly allows the government to designate native species of “birds, mammals, fish, amphibians, reptiles or plants,” but excludes invertebrates such as bees.

However, the commission argued that a separate section of the state fish and game code defines fish as “wild fish, shellfish, crustaceans, invertebrates or amphibians.”

The Supreme Court sided with the industry groups.

In 2021, the Stanford Environmental Law Clinic intervened on behalf of the appellants.

In May, the trial court’s ruling was overturned by the California 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, which found that the state legislature defined the term “fish” as “a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part thereof, roe, or egg of any of these animals”.

Therefore, the definition of “fish” in the Endangered Species Act is a legal term of art that goes beyond the common meaning of “fish”.

It remains to be seen whether the much-controversial conservation law will ever be revised by militant stakeholders. First enacted in 1970, the California Endangered Species Act was repealed and replaced by an updated version in 1984 and amended in 1997.

The announcement of the court decision stunned the world of native bee lovers with rare, encouraging news.

It’s a world that by its very nature seems pastoral and peaceful, but which is fraught with challenges, including climate change, competition from cultivated honey bees, habitat loss and pesticides.

On a recent morning as she awaited a Supreme Court decision, Krystle Hickman hovered over clumps of buckwheat in the western Mojave Desert, using her camera to document native bees. The insects, some less than a quarter inch long, drank nectar and collected loads of pollen.

“People tend to think of ecology as a very large, landscape scale,” said the 37-year-old. “But each of these bushes exists as a kind of densely populated universe.”

The photographer and artist has spent the last few years developing identification materials and photo galleries to give people a glimpse into the often overlooked natural communities of insects, including native bees.

“The Supreme Court decision is great news for these insects,” Hickman said. “They are worthy of study, admiration and preservation.”

A federal appeals court rejects the Trump administration’s move to weaken margin protections

Los Angeles Times 2022.

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Citation: Bumblebees can be classified as ‘fish’ under California conservation law, court says (2022, September 23) Retrieved September 23, 2022, from -fish-california-law-court .html

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