California Supreme Court upholds ruling that bumblebees can be defined as ‘fish’ in endangered species law

For some devotees of climate change and environmentalism, reality and the commonly understood meaning of certain words are no obstacles to their agenda, as both reality and words can be twisted to fit a particular narrative and further advance their goals.

A recent example of such comes out of California, where that state’s Supreme Court just upheld an appellate court ruling that defined bumblebees as “fish” in terms of the state’s law protecting endangered species, The Washington Times reported.

Can bumblebees be defined as “fish”?

At issue here is a legally challenged move by the California Fish and Game Commission to add four different types of bumblebees to the California Endangered Species Act.

There is no designation for “insects” in that law, but in its initial iteration in 1970 — later updated in 1984 — it defined “fish” as including “invertebrates,” and when the Commission added the bees to the endangered list as “invertebrates” under the “fish” definition, a collection of agricultural groups filed suit.

A district court had sided with those groups and ruled against the Commission’s inclusion of bumblebees as fish, but an appeals court reversed that ruling and allowed the Commission’s action to stand, which prompted a further appeal to the state’s highest court.

Yes, bumblebees qualify as “fish” under the statutory definition

In its 39-page ruling, the California Supreme Court reaffirmed the appeals court ruling that bumblebees, as invertebrates, could be included in the Endangered Species Act under a liberal interpretation of the statute’s definition of “fish.”

“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,” the judges wrote.

In its review of the history of the legislation in its various iterations and amendments over time, it was noted that invertebrates such as butterflies and the Trinity bristle snail, a terrestrial mollusk and invertebrate, had been previously included as endangered or threatened species under the law, even though those animals are obviously not “fish.”

“A fish, as the term is commonly understood in everyday parlance, of course, lives in aquatic environments,” the court stated. “As the Department and the Commission note, however, the technical definition in section 45 includes mollusks, invertebrates, amphibians, and crustaceans, all of which encompass terrestrial and aquatic species.”

Given the prior inclusion of the terrestrial snail under the “fish” definition, the court concluded that, “fish defined in section 45, as a term of art, is not limited solely to aquatic species. Accordingly, a terrestrial invertebrate, like each of the four bumble bee species, may be listed as an endangered or threatened species under the Act.”

Chief justice adds a special statement

Interestingly enough, the Associated Press reported that the court’s chief justice added a special statement after the ruling in which she acknowledged that this ruling would likely be “misconstrued” and seemed to distance the court from the patent absurdity of defining bumblebees as fish by stating that the court neither endorsed nor rejected that definition and simply interpreted the statute in question.

She also appeared to place the onus on the state legislature to better clarify the law, and wrote, “The Legislature is in a position to make whatever statutory amendments it may regard as necessary or useful. For although it may not be exceptional for a court to determine that a particular word or phrase within a statute carries a meaning that deviates from common parlance or understanding, such decisions also can provide notice to legislators that some clarification may be in order.”

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