Anderson: Southeast Asian outreach is needed

  • Article by: DENNIS ANDERSON , Star Tribune
  • Updated: May 29, 2012 - 8:25 PM

Notice by the Department of Natural Resources on Tuesday that one of its conservation officers cited Chien Van Tran, 39, of Otsego, for having 413 sunfish and 30 crappies over his limit speaks not only to the good panfishing this state offers but also to the just-beneath-the-surface beliefs held by many state anglers that violating fishing laws is commonplace among at least a significant minority of Minnesotans of southeast Asian origin.

To what degree this is true, if it is true, is unknown. Certainly in my travels around the state I've encountered many Cambodians, Laotians, Hmong and Vietnamese anglers and hunters, with pleasant outcomes no less often than when meeting anyone else. But it's also true that in certain locales -- the St. Croix River, to name one -- southeast Asian anglers are believed by some observers to catch and keep too many fish too often, particularly white and smallmouth bass, to the detriment of these species. A location on the river often cited where these violations occur is at or near the A.S. King Powerplant in Bayport.

Josee Cung has led the DNR's outreach program to southeast Asians and other newcomers to the state since the early 1990s. At one time, she said Tuesday, the agency held workshops and other programs to explain to southeast Asian anglers the state's fishing rules and ethics. Those no longer take place, she said, though DNR staff and others do appear on radio broadcasts that appeal to southeast Asians in advance of season openings to talk about outdoor opportunities that are available, and various hunting and fishing rules and limits.

"We are working now with the Karen people of Burma, who are an ethnic minority, and Burmese themselves,'' Cung said.

Minnesotans of Asian descent include about 65,000 Hmong, 27,000 Vietnamese, 12,000 Laotians and 10,000 Cambodians, among others.

As complicated as the state's game and fish laws are, it would seem reasonable that the DNR would want to continue to reach out to these and other relative newcomers to the state as directly and thoroughly as possible -- on an ongoing basis. Too much is at stake not to, including fragile natural resources, and perhaps even more fragile race relations.

Dennis Anderson danderson@startribune.com

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