What’s in a Name? ‘Invasive’ Carp Explained

Invasive Carp Being Netted

Columbus Day hasn’t been the only thing due for a Minnesotanly-correct makeover this past week. This time it’s happening in the capitol building. On Monday John Hoffman (DFL-Champlin) netted approval from the state Senate on a measure to change the name of ‘Asian Carp’ to ‘Invasive Carp.’

Hoffman explained the ambiguity of the name back in March:

Caucasians brought them to America…  Should we call them `Caucasian carp?’ They have names. Let’s call them what they are.

The ‘names,’ to which he was referring, do not exactly correlate with wider labels of ‘invasive’ or ‘Asian,’ but rather to the specific names of a couple closely related members of the Cyprinidae family: Bighead Carp and Silver Carp. These two plankton eating varieties (native to a large range across China, Russia and North Korea) have been making a steady climb up the Mississippi River (and its tributaries). Somehow they’ve bypassed specialized dams, electric barriers and other expensive measures of Federal money made with hopes to keep them from Minnesota’s front door.

According to newly released discoveries, the eggs of one or possibly both species have been discovered just twenty miles downriver of Minnesota waters. It’s not a matter of ‘if’ these species of carp will populate our state, but rather an issue of how far upstream they’ll get.

It’s in this context (of drawing the eco-security battle lines) that the name ‘Asian’ couldn’t work (at least according to Hoffman and other Senators); the negative views on the fish could get mixed up with Asian people and culture (this misdirection of anger has been observed before as gardeners defaced sushi joints across the Twin Cities because of the pesky Japanese Beetle and as fishermen strung up the Como Zoo’s zebras in an effort to get back at the infamous Zebra Mussel… kidding of course).

The change to using ‘Invasive Carp,’ at first, might seem rather daft. After all we don’t have ‘Native Carp’ in Minnesota (the Common Carp was introduced in the 1880s). But there is a silver lining: the measure could encourage the use of specific species names instead of lumping them all together as carp. Although only two carp species (bighead and silver) will be giving Minnesota trouble in the near future, there are actually four total species of problematic ‘Asian/Invasive Carp’ in the Mississippi (black carp and grass carp being the other two). Here is a visual for more carp clarity:

 

Carp

Interestingly enough, the above forms of carp (and others) are all technically native to Asia (and were all brought to North America by Caucasians). As my readers might know, I like good, definite terms; in terms of carp, I propose we throw away categories like ‘invasive’ and ‘Asian.’ How about just using their names, just like Hoffman said.

Pictures via: Google (visual by Erik Bergs)



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