Monday, May 23, 2005

Waiting for the Barbarians

Anthropomorphism continues to be one of the most potent racist tropes in U.S. public discourse. The Washington Post sounds the alarm on the "yellow peril":

"These fish jump. Oh, how they jump. It's common for an Asian carp to leap four feet out of the water and flop into whatever may rumble into its path, be it watercraft or fisherman. They also make a big splash. A 60-pounder is not unusual.

"Every day we go out on the water, the number of fish we see jumping around the boat is just astounding. It's incomprehensible," said Mark Pegg, a fisheries biologist for the Illinois Natural History Survey. "You just have to see it to realize there are that many fish jumping around you."

Near the Illinois River, Pegg and his colleagues inspected a 43-pound female, which he described as "a small one." She was carrying 2.2 million eggs, and she had plenty of company. "There were hundreds, if not thousands, of large females in this one inlet we were sampling."

The Asian carp is sowing fear in marine biologists and fishermen. Descendants of the fish, imported from China 30 years ago by catfish farmers in the deep South, escaped their pens when floodwaters rose and have been swimming north and procreating ever since, each day consuming as much as 50 percent of their body weight in plankton and other microorganisms.

The danger, experts say, is that the voracious jumping carp will overrun the waterways and other fish will starve to death. Here along the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal, a gateway to the Great Lakes, government authorities hope to shock the carp into submission.

Literally." (Peter Slevin, "Its Asian Carp Against the Current," The Washington Post, May 22, 2005).


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