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Anderson: Sensitive legislators back senseless carp alias

  • June 4, 2014 - 7:18 AM

Regularly the source of humor, the Legislature outdid itself recently by renaming Asian carp. With impunity, citizens here can still refer to black carp, grass carp, silver carp and bighead carp as Asian carp. But DNR fisheries managers now must call them invasive carp, thereby being more sensitive to Minnesotans of Asian ancestry.

In response, various scribes around the country have ridiculed Minnesota for again leading the charge in political correctness. Ever so cleverly, and perhaps insensitive themselves, they’ve intoned: What’s next in Minnesota, renaming the European flounder? The Japanese eel? The Mexican blind cave fish? And how about Dutch elm disease, which is widespread here?

Such witticisms aside, and whatever its admirable intent, the Legislature got it wrong when it rearranged the DNR’s alphabet.

“Invasive” carp, after all, is a term that scientists worldwide — including those who work for the DNR — generally refer to when describing common carp, Cyprinus carpio, of which Minnesota has plenty. In fact, the common carp is on the list of the world’s worst invasive species, because it wreaks all kinds of aquatic havoc, as it has in Minnesota since the late 1800s, when it was imported here.

Moreover, the common carp is sometimes referred to as the German carp — surely a worrisome note to the Legislature, because, according to the 2010 census, about 38 percent of Minnesotans claim German ancestry.

Noteworthy also is that evolution of common carp is separated by evolution of Asian carp (of which there are many species, but only the grass, bighead, silver and black are in the U.S.) by tens of millions of years, and lumping the two together is not entirely dissimilar from calling Asian carp catfish.

Used at least since Roman times, “carp” doesn’t even describe fish most people would consider similar. Broadly, it includes dozens of species, including goldfish and koi.

Rather than condemning DNR fisheries folk to play Scrabble for Scientists when communicating with their “Asian” carp counterparts in other states, legislators should have consulted carp experts Przemek Bajer and Peter Sorensen from the U, who could have offered equally sensitive, yet entirely more sensible alternatives.

Perhaps next session a redo is in order, before specimens of Cirrhinus cirrhosis arrive in Minnesota.

You know, Indian carp.

 

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

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