Bumblebees can be classified as ‘fish’ under California conservation law, court says [Updated]
By Bill Quigley, The Bee
The trial by jury in Tulare County Superior Court of the first state-level challenge of California’s bee-buddy law opened Tuesday. The trial centered around whether the state’s “fish” tag, used to classify some of the state’s more than 3,500 species of invertebrates, should be removed.
The state will be the first in the country to try a challenge of the law. It is one of 22 states with such laws.
The law essentially prohibits the killing of bees in the state, except for purposes not related to protection of the honeybee (Apis mellifera). The law doesn’t apply to honeybees (Apis mellifera scutellata), who don’t have any honey.
The state law was enacted in 1976 and has been the subject of a lawsuit to force the removal of the “fish” tag.
During the trial, the state argued that its “fish” law was a legitimate conservation measure designed to protect other species, such as the northern spotted owl, against the danger of honeybee attacks. The state also contended that it has no plan to enforce the law or attempt to recover any of the thousands of live bees that are killed each year in California.
The state’s “fish” law doesn’t apply to any birds at the moment – such as the red squirrel – or fish, but the state would be able to impose the law on fish, the state attorney general’s office told justices during oral arguments.
The other nine states with such laws are: Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, Mississippi, New Jersey, Oregon and Vermont. Idaho doesn’t have a wildlife conservation regulation law but has a conservation easement law for fish and birds.
The state’s Fish and Game Commission issued a written response stating its intent to enforce the law.
In addition to California’s statute, there are two other state laws