Asian carp aren't just offending Midwestern waterways. They're offending the politically correct.
According to John Hoffman, a Democratic state senator from Minnesota, the name "Asian carp" casts Asian culture and people in a negative light. It's such a problem, in fact, that he sponsored a bill to change the fish's name to "invasive carp" in that state.
"Caucasians brought them to America," he told Minneapolis's Star Tribune last week. "Should we call them 'Caucasian carp?' They have names. Let's call them what they are."
The term Asian carp refers to several destructive carp originating from Southeast Asia, including black, bighead, grass, and silver carp. Since the species' introduction to the U.S. in the 1970s, the fish have spread to dozens of states.
It's not the name, however, that has officials worried. That might be the least of their concerns. If the Asian carp makes its way to the Great Lakes, the species could overwhelm the waterways and destroy the fishing industry. The Army Corps of Engineers, in a January study, says it will cost $18.4 billion to prevent Asian carp from entering Lake Michigan from Chicago-area waterways.
But the truth is, these fish are called Asian carp because the species comes from Asia. It's simple, really.
It's not uncommon for species to bear the name of their home continent. Many plants, fish, and insects acquire the name of the region from which they came. Consider other invasive species with the prefix "Asian":
The Asian long-horned beetle is an insect native to China, Japan, and Korea that was accidentally introduced to North America. Its larvae tunnels through wood to kill off thousands of trees. The Asian tiger mosquito came to the U.S. in the 1980s. The Asian swamp eel has also taken over some American waterways. If the "Asian carp" name ought to change, these too might need to be changed.
Europe is also the namesake for several invasive species in the U.S. The European privet, the European green crab, and the European starling all threaten several ecosystems. Should people of European descent be offended by the names of these invasive species?
And these names even go beyond continents. The Burmese python threatens wildlife in South Florida. The Chinese mitten crab competes with native species in the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland and the Hudson River in New York. There's also the Russian knapweed, Spanish cane, Japanese barberry, Australian pine, Canada thistle, Brazilian waterweed, New Zealand mud snail, Cuban tree frog, and Armenia blackberry, among other invasive species in the U.S. Do the names of these plants and animals also reflect poorly on the countries from which they came?
This isn't the first time the name of an invasive species has been called offensive. Remember the Africanized honeybees from the 1990s? They were a new bread of aggressive bees, also known as "killer bees," that invaded the U.S. from Mexico and threatened honey production. Their venom wasn't any more deadly than regular European honeybees, but the swarms were described in the terms of a Hollywood horror movie.
The name was criticize by progressive filmmaker Michael Moore in his movie Bowling for Columbine. He draws a connection between fear of the African bees and stigmas associated with African-Americans. "The one thing you can always count on is white America's fear of the black man," Moore narrates. But his sentiment was not widely shared and nothing happened with the name.
So, do the negative actions of these invasive species reflect poorly on the region from which they come, or the people of those areas? They shouldn't. It's like saying the countless times American bison have attacked people give all Americans a bad name.
Simply, these species are named after regions because that's where they come from. Those scientists who named the species most likely had no malicious intent with the names.
The Asian carp is just a carp that came from Asia.
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