Grass, bighead, silver and black carp have been commonly known as “Asian” carp since the 1970s, when they were brought to the US as a biological control for plants, algae and snails in certain circumstances, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
Yet calling these invasive fishes “Asian,” and then promoting efforts to control their population, has xenophobic connotations, officials said.
“This could be referring to Asian people as being an invasive species, which is just a horrible connotation,” said Charlie Wooley, the regional director for the US Fish and Wildlife Service in the Midwest region, where these fish are often found.
“I looked at that and thought, ‘We need to start to get away from referring to Asian carp,'” he told CNN. “We felt we had a role here.”
After discussing the changes in February and March, the change from “Asian” to “invasive” carp became official on April 1 in the Midwest region, Wooley said, noting that everyone the service works with has followed their lead.
Asian Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, a group working to stop the spread of the carp into the Great Lakes, still uses the term “Asian carp,” according to its website. The committee is planning on changing the name on August 2, dubbing the organization the Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee.
“The change is prompted by the need to pivot to a more culturally-sensitive terminology, incorporating an ecological description in lieu of a broad geographic reference,” the committee said in a statement to CNN. “Several US federal and state agencies have already transitioned to use the term ‘invasive carp’ when referring to black carp, grass carp, bighead carp, and silver carp. Over the next several months, the Committee will also transition its website and other public-facing communications to incorporate the term ‘invasive carp’ when referring to these carp species.”
It’s not just fish. Many other names in nature have recently been changed or reconsidered, as much of the US takes a harder look at what those names may signal.