American catfish farmers imported Asian Carp in the 1970s to control algae in their fish farms. Some fish escaped and are now headed toward the Great Lakes, posing such a threat that the White House even convened an “Asian Carp Summit” earlier in the year. One possible solution to deal with the expanding Asian Carp population is to have Americans eat the fish but, as Alex Gallafent found out, the current name doesn’t sell the fish – so maybe under a different name? But what should that name be? Share your ideas for a new name for Asian Carp by posting a comment below.
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MARCO WERMAN: It sounds like something out of a horror film, a large and voracious fish invades U.S. waters and kills off local species. That’s what happened with the Asian Carp. American catfish farmers imported the fish in the 1970′s to eat up algae in their fish farms. Some fish escaped, their numbers multiplied, and now they’re headed toward the Great Lakes posing such a threat that the White house even convened an Asian Carp summit earlier in the year. One possible solution to curb the growing number of Asian Carp is to have Americans eat the fish, only under a different name, and that’s where things get complicated as The World’s Alex Gallafent reports from New York.
ALEX GALLAFENT: Salmon is salmon. Tuna is tuna. But in the life aquatic, things aren’t always so straight forward. For instance, the King Mackerel is also the Hog. The Whitefish is also the Gizzard fish and a crawfish is also, believe it or not, a mudbug. Names matter, as this old-fashioned domestic scene illustrates.
MALE VOICE 1: Hello darling, what’s for dinner?
FEMALE VOICE 1: Patagonian Toothfish honey, with a lovely butter sauce.
GALLAFENT: Oh, let’s try that again.
MALE VOICE 1: Hello darling, what’s for dinner?
FEMALE VOICE 1: Chilean Sea Bass honey, with a lovely butter sauce.
GALLAFENT: Much better. Same fish.
LEWIS SPADA: You know if you have Patagonia Toothfish on my display, I don’t think it’s going to sell as much as Chilean Sea Bass. You know it sounds a lot more appealing to people.
GALLAFENT: Lewis Spada is the manager of Fish Tales, a fishmonger in Brooklyn. Like everyone else, he sells plenty of Patagonia Toothfish. Under the name Chilean Sea Bass, even though it’s not actually a bass. And Spada would sell Asian Carp, too, but only if it had a different name. One state fishing authority has conjured up the name Silverfin.
SPADA: If there was a calling for it sure, I would definitely carry it. I mean Silverfin is definitely a little more appealing I think to most Americans than Asian Carp.
GALLAFENT: Others have plumped for the name Kentucky Tuna. Fishmonger Lewis Spada thinks the fears about buying Asian Carp are partly to do with the recent cases of tainted products coming fro parts of Asia.
SPADA: That alone will kind of turn people off to that whole experience with the fish. I think it’s a little unfair because it could be an excellent fish and people could enjoy it.
GALLAFENT: But the bigger public relations challenge for the Asian Carp is American confusion with the more familiar common carp. Those fish are bottom feeders, taking in a diet of insects and worms. Asian Carp grow big, 50 pounds or more, on plankton, much more appealing, although they are rather bony. Still, in some part of Asia it’s a fine meal.
THOMAS LEUNG: In Cantonese it’s lei yu.
GALLAFENT: Thomas Leung is a fourth generation herbalist, based in New York City’s Chinatown. His family is from southern China, in Guangdong province. Indeed, Leung’s father, also an herbalist, says carp, Asian Carp, is familiar fare. His son translates.
LEUNG: Different areas they prepare the carp differently. In my hometown, we pan fry the fish and then we stew it with peanuts. In the south it has always been regarded as a tasty fish. I don’t understand what the reason is why Americans would not like the fish.
GALLAFENT: In time, perhaps they will. And perhaps they won’t know it. For The World, I’m Alex Gallafent in New York.
WERMAN: So what do you think? Silverfin? Kentucky Tuna? Send us your ideas for a new name for the Asian Carp at the world dot org.
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