How bumble bees became “fish”: A California appellate decision illustrates canons of statutory construction

Read the full story in the National Law Review.

A California appellate court recently concluded that the bumble bee is a “fish,” at least for the purposes of certain provisions in the California Endangered Species Act (Cal. ESA). Because bumble bees are “fish,” they can be subject to the Cal. ESA. While this conclusion would be disputed by primary school age children everywhere, this decision – in Almond Alliance of California v. California Fish and Game Commission – illustrates how courts can sometimes reach supportable, but wholly counterintuitive, results.

The case involved whether four bumble bee species could be protected by Cal. ESA. The court found that they could be protected under Cal. ESA because, while “fish” is “colloquially and commonly understood to refer to aquatic species,” the Cal. ESA, uses it as a “term of art” to mean something different than its common usage.

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