ST. PAUL, Minn. – The troublesome fish currently known as Asian carp may get a new name in Minnesota over concern that the current one casts people from Asian cultures in a negative light.
Proposals advancing in the Legislature would require the Department of Natural Resources to refer to the fish as "invasive carp," a reference to the threat the non-native fish pose to Mississippi River-area ecosystems.
Sen. John Hoffman, the Champlin Democrat sponsoring a bill in the Senate, said some people of Asian descent have complained about the name.
"Caucasians brought them to America," Hoffman, the bill's primary Senate sponsor, said Thursday. "Should we call them `Caucasian carp?' They have names. Let's call them what they are."
Asian carp actually describes two closely related fish, the bighead carp and silver carp, that are native to a region of Asia spanning China, part of Siberia and North Korea, said Cindy Kolar, a fish biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey in Reston, Va. Since their introduction to the United States about 30 years ago, they have become a threat to native fish including those in the Great Lakes, Minnesota and elsewhere.
Jean Lee, who testified for the Senate bill Thursday, said she became upset by the term as it was used during a round-table meeting she attended with Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials.
"They were referring to the Asian people in terms of being invasive species. This was offensive," said Lee, executive director of the Children's Hope International Minnesota chapter. That St. Louis-based nonprofit organization facilitates international adoptions from countries including China and Vietnam.
Sia Her, executive director of the Council on Asian-Pacific Minnesotans, a state agency, also testified in support of calling the fish "invasive carp." The negative response to the fish "will reflect negatively on our community," she said.
The key aspect of the fish is that it is invasive, she said.
DNR spokeswoman Julie Forster said the agency was unaware of any complaints that "Asian carp" was offensive. But she said the agency would follow any direction the Legislature gives.
The Senate bill was approved and now awaits a floor vote. A similar House bill hasn't yet had a committee hearing.
A similar bill was introduced in the Iowa Legislature last year but didn't make it out of committee.