Grass, bighead, silver and black carps have been commonly referred to as “Asian” carps since the 1970s, when they were imported into the United States as a biological control medium for plants, algae and snails under certain circumstances. , according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. .
But a few of these fish have managed to escape these confined systems and settle in the Mississippi River – eventually extending into the Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois rivers. These fish, considered invasive, can influence native aquatic communities, which is why agencies are working to control their populations.
Yet calling these invasive fish “Asian” and then promoting efforts to control their population has xenophobic overtones, officials said.
“It might refer to Asians as an invasive species, which is just a horrible connotation,” said Charlie Wooley, regional director of the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Midwest region, where these fish are often found.
In January, President Joe Biden signed an executive order recognizing the damage suffered by the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, while encouraging the Department of Health and Human Services to be sensitive to those communities, according to a senior official. responsible for administration.
Although Biden’s directive made no mention of the carp problem at all, Wooley said, the move was a “driving force” for the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Along with the increase in attacks on Asian communities – most notably the Atlanta shooting in March – there was pressure to act quickly.
“I looked at this and thought, ‘We have to start moving away from the reference to Asian carp,’” he told CNN. “We felt we had a role here. “
After discussing the changes in February and March, the switch from “Asian” to “invasive” carp became official on April 1 in the Midwest region, Wooley said, noting that everyone the service works with had followed their example.
Locally in Minnesota, the push to label these types of carp as “invasive” rather than “Asian” began years ago in 2014, when a group of state lawmakers introduced a bill. law to use the term “invasive carp” in proposed laws, rules or official documents. CNN reached out to Democratic State Senator Foung Hawj, one of the bill’s sponsors, for comment, but did not immediately receive a response.
The Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, a group that works to stop the spread of carp in the Great Lakes, still uses the term “Asian carp,” according to its website. The committee plans to change the name on August 2, dubbing the organization the Regional Invasive Carp Coordinating Committee.
“The change is driven by the need to move to more culturally sensitive terminology, incorporating an ecological description instead of a broad geographic reference,” the committee said in a statement to CNN. “Several federal and state agencies in the United States have already used the term ‘invasive carp’ to refer to black carp, grass carp, bighead carp and silver carp. Over the next few months, the Committee will also be transitioning its website and other -cope communications to incorporate the term “invasive carp” when referring to these carp species. “
It’s not just fish. Many other names in the wild have recently been changed or reconsidered as much of the United States is taking a closer look at what these names may signal.
The American Ornithological Society announced last month that it was moving forward to change the “English pest bird names” because some birds are named after racist explorers.
Meanwhile, efforts are also being made to rename certain geographic locations, many of which have outdated or derogatory terms for Blacks, Native Americans, and Asian Americans.