Why Bees Are Actually Considered Fish In California

As most of us already know, bees are scientifically classified as insects (via Britannica). But according to California's Third Appellate District Court of Appeal, bees can actually be classified at fish — at least, in California. Why? The answer is a bit complicated, but it essentially boils down to the court finding a loophole in order to protect bees under the California Endangered Species Act.

California Fish and Game Commission had originally chosen four species of bumblebees to protect under the California Endangered Species Act, but several agricultural associations in the state sued because insects were not considered a protected category under the law (via KGW, posted by NBC 15). According to Verify This, the California Fish and Game Commission fought back until the California Third Appellate District Court of Appeal decided to classify bees as fish under the California Endangered Species Act. This loophole allows these bees to be protected despite not having their own category in the bill.

The court rules that bees can be classified as fish because they are invertebrates

The reason the California court chose to put bees under the fish category isn't just a random decision. According to the California Endangered Species Act, a fish is defined as "a wild fish, mollusk, crustacean, invertebrate, amphibian, or part, spawn, or ovum of any of those animals" (via CNN). While there may not be an insect category in the act, bees surprisingly fit into the definition of a fish because of the way the bill is written.

This loophole works because bees also are invertebrates — animals that lack a backbone and other skeletal structures (via Britannica). As the court stated, "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 is not so limited" (via Verify This). Essentially, the court recognized that a bee is not a fish, but the wording of the California Endangered Species Act allowed for bees to be defined in this way because of its vague wording.

Bees are an important part of our ecosystem

So why go through all this trouble to get a couple species of bees protected? According to Friends of Earth, bees are important because they pollinate human food crops. According to the United Nations Environment Program, 71% of the crops that provide us with 90% of our food are pollinated by bees (via the Center for Food Safety).

Unfortunately for us, the bee population is on the decline. According to Greenpeace USA, the number of bee colonies per hectare has shrunk by 90% since 1962. One contributor to the decline in bee populations is the increased use of various pesticides on crops. While these pesticides keep unwanted bugs from eating our food sources, they also have the unintended consequence of harming bees as well. According to a study published in Nature, the combined use of different pesticides increases the lethal nature of the chemicals, causing even more bees to die. Now that bees have been granted a protected status under the California Endangered Species Act, the California Fish and Game Commission can work to regulate and find alternatives to these harmful pesticides in order to keep bee populations thriving in the state.