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All the carping about the carp is fishy

Friday, January 25, 2013

On the side

Active Republican: Tracey Winbush of Youngstown had a productive week. The Mahoning County Republican Party’s executive committee nominated her to replace Clarence Smith on the county board of elections. Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted makes that final decision. Winbush was also elected to serve as assistant treasurer of the Ohio Republican Party.

Food fight: A fundraiser by the Mahoning County Democratic Party could turn competitive. Called “Cooking with the Commissioners,” Anthony Traficanti, Carol Rimedio-Righetti and David Ditzler along with Mark Canzonetta, a master chef, will cook at the Culinary Arts Center at 492 McClurg Road from 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday. Tickets are $130 per person with seating for up to 80. Among the commissioners, the one whose meal is judged to be the best will have $500 donated to the charity of his or her choice by the party.

While this newspaper’s editorials have long supported efforts to keep Asian carp out of the Great Lakes, I’ve got to be honest — I haven’t paid much attention to it.

I don’t know why, but when I received an email from U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown’s office that he was having a teleconference call on Wednesday with reporters about a proposed Strategic Response to Asian Carp Invasion Act to keep the fish out of the Ohio River basin, I became interested. I was more animated than usual in the office wondering why we’re picking on a fish species.

Asian carp are super-fish that spend every waking moment eating and populating, overwhelming American fish who can’t keep up with the foreigners. When Asian carp hear the sound of boat motors, they literally get jumpy. These fish, that can weigh 100 pounds, leap out of the water — which is pretty cool to see and there are dozens of videos online — and have been known to smack boaters upside their heads.

These are fish with attitudes, and wherever they are, they take over. That impacts the ecosystem and the fishing industry.

This isn’t the Asian carp’s fault. They didn’t ask to come to America. Yeah, they’re fish and even if they were asked, they weren’t going to answer.

Asian carp were brought to the United States in the 1970s by Southern fish farmers as bottom-feeders to clean up ponds. They kept eating and populating and are now in major bodies of water.

Brown and others want to keep them out of the Great Lakes and the Ohio River basin.

Sometimes on these conference calls, I get a little goofy. OK, goofier than usual.

While it’s beneficial to have Brown and other politicians provide reporters with time on these teleconference calls, they typically aren’t that interesting so I’ve been known to try to spice them up when the mood strikes me.

I had a running joke last year with Brown’s press office about their terrible taste in music. Specifically, they really like Phil Collins.

I told them I was going to ask Brown about his favorite Collins’ song on one of the calls. I don’t think they believed me. When I asked, Brown couldn’t give an answer, which led to a lot of laughs from the three people who were in on the joke.

With Brown taking about a potential Asian carp “invasion” on Wednesday’s call, I decided to have a little fun.

As Tom Jackson of the Sandusky Register wrote in a funny blog post about what happened, “the questioning took a turn for the bizarre when the senator was asked to diagnose a reporter’s sanity and defend his hostility to the fish.”

I said: “It sounds like we’re persecuting Asian carp for just being more aggressive than other fish. Am I insane?”

Brown was polite enough to say about my sanity that he couldn’t “answer that clinically. It’s not my expertise.”

He talked about “controlling” Asian carp. I asked: “So you want to kill them?”

“I don’t advocate on these calls killing anybody or anything,” Brown answered. “No, we want to control them so they don’t come in.”

Still sounds like fishocide to me. But anti-Asian carpites, please no angry calls, emails, comments or tweets. I’m only kidding.