A California Court of Appeal in Sacramento has created a buzz in ruling that bumblebees can be considered “fish” under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). This decision reverses a lower court’s ruling that bumblebees – which are terrestrial invertebrates — do not fall within the categories of endangered, threatened or candidate species that the state law protects. The California Endangered Species Act (previously known as the endangered and rare animal legislation) directs the Fish and Game Commission (Commission) to establish a list of endangered and threatened species. Fish & G. Code § 2070. Originally, Section 45 of the CESA defined “fish” as “wild fish, mollusks, or crustaceans, including any part, spawn or ova thereof,” but was amended in 1969 to include invertebrates and amphibians. See Stats. 1969, ch. 689, Section 1. Subsequent amendments made only stylistic changes. See Stats. 2015, ch. 154 § 5.
In 2018, several public interest groups petitioned to list the Crotch bumblebee, the Franklin bumblebee, the Suckley cuckoo bumblebee and the Western bumblebee as endangered under the CESA.
After the Commission designated the four bumblebees as candidate species under consideration for listing as endangered, in 2019 the Almond Alliance of California, and a coalition of growers’ associations and farm and agriculture organizations, filed a petition for writ of administrative mandate,