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Serving: West

Calif. court rules insects not protected by ESA

USDA ARS Western bumble bee
The Western bumble bee was one of four species proposed for listing under the California Endangered Species Act.
The Almond Alliance and other groups fought the listing of bumble bees.

The superior court in Sacramento has ruled the California Endangered Species Act (CESA) does not cover insects and that bees cannot be classified as fish.

The Almond Alliance of California and seven other agricultural groups sued the California Fish and Game Commission after its vote to grant candidacy status to four subspecies of bumble bees under the state's environmental law.

"The California almond industry recognizes that pollinators are integral to many natural habitats and are crucial for the production success of our industry," the alliance stated after the Nov. 19 ruling. "The Almond Alliance of California is pleased with the ruling and reiterates that the California almond industry continues to be committed to protecting the health and well-being of bees."

Judge James P. Arguelles agreed with petitioners who argued that the California Legislature was clear in the CESA that insects were not protected.

The commission and state Department of Fish and Wildlife unsuccessfully argued that bees and other insects and invertebrates are covered because “invertebrates” are included within the definition of “fish” in Section 45 of the Fish and Game Code (FGC).

The case follows a 2018 petition from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Center for Food Safety to add the four bumble bee species --  the Crotch, Franklin’s, Suckley cuckoo, and Western bumble bee.

The bees would have been the first insects added. Industry groups feared that pesticide restrictions, grazing rules, and other habitat protections could then be imposed.

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