Invasive Species Council of British Columbia

Common Carp’s Cultural Connection

Hussein Al-Bayati from Vancouver, B.C. Credit H. Bayati

By Melanie Apps | June 17, 2024

As part of the ISCBC youth program’s invasive species storytelling project, youth in Canada share their stories of invasive species and their effect on community and culture. 

Meet Hussein Al-Bayati. Hussein lives in Vancouver, B.C. on the unceded territory of the Coast Salish Peoples. Hussein and his family are originally from Iraq, and he was born and raised in Jordan. Hussein immigrated to Canada in 2018 and currently works in Engineering and Project Management. He enjoys hiking in the summer and skiing in the winter, activities which connect him to the land and its historical stewards. 

Hussein enjoying a sunny hike in the forest. Credit: H. Al-Bayati. 

The invasive species Hussein feels connected to the most is common carp (Cyprinus carpio). Originally from parts of central Asia and east Europe, common carp has spread to nearly every part of the world, including the Great Lakes and some inland lakes in Ontario.  

Hussein explains this connection to Iraqi cuisine and culture. “For many Iraqis, سمك مسكوف (pronounced: Simach Masgouf) is the national dish of Iraq. The dish is comprised of common carp grilled on sharp iron spikes on an open fire pit made of willow wood, then moved to finish cooking on coals. The dish would sit in the middle of the table when we had family friends over for dinner. While Masgouf is more of an acquired taste, I have always appreciated the cultural value it brings. Recently, however, a friend told me that carp is an invasive species, the most populous of the cultured fish species in Iraq.” 

The Tigris and Euphrates rivers are home to several indigenous fish species such as mangar, also known as pike barbel (Luciobarbus esocinus) and yellowfin barbell (Luciobarbus xanthopterus). Mangar, one of Iraq’s largest fish species, is found in the Euphrates River while yellowfin barbell inhabits Lake Tharthar and the Tigris-Euphrates River system. 

Common carp (Cyprinus carpio) Credit: Duane Raver, US Fish and Wildlife Service,

When asked about the impact of common carp on his culture, Hussein had this to say: 

“Since learning that common carp is an invasive species to Mesopotamia, making up 63.5% of the cultured fish species in the province of Basrah, I wonder how the Iraqi cuisine and fish habitat would have differed without common carp.” 

Hussein offers the following advice regarding invasive species: “It’s important to be aware of invasive species, and be curious how they affect your culture, while learning how to support native species. Do not hold judgement but rather make space for them.”   

Funded by the Government of Canada.

Financé par le gouvernement du Canada.

Melanie is a Youth Coordinator for the Lower Mainland region with ISCBC. She is passionate about community-focused environmental stewardship and helps lead a restoration project in New Westminster in her free time. You can reach Melanie at