Illinois Has a New Name for 'Delicious' Invasive Species

They hope people will eat more Asian carp if it's known as 'copi'
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 11, 2022 8:34 AM CDT
Updated Aug 14, 2022 7:10 AM CDT
'Delicious' Invasive Species Has a New Name
Asian carp are processed at Two Rivers Fisheries in Wickliffe, Ky., Feb. 11, 2020.   (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File)

There's a long history of fish being renamed to widen their appeal to consumers—orange roughy was once known as slimehead, and the many names of the monkfish have included goosefish, sea-devil, and frog-fish. Now, it's the Asian carp's turn. Illinois has rebranded the fish as "copi" in the hope that people will start eating more of the invasive species, reports Reuters. Kevin Irons at the Illinois Department of Natural Resources says the name was launched "to help people consume this delicious fish and help us do our work in keeping them out of the waterways." Authorities say catching more of the fish will help keep them away from the Great Lakes, where they could devastate native ecosystems and the regional fishing industry.

The new name is derived from "copious." Populations of Asian carp—the collective name for silver, bighead, black, and grass carp—have exploded since they made their way into the Mississippi River basin in the 1970s and they now make up more than 90% of the fish biomass in some major rivers, according to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission. "Anything you do with ground meat you can do with copi," Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk's Fish and Gourmet Shop in Chicago, which started selling copi in 2010, tells Reuters. "So, burgers are most popular for us here, but... we've done sausage, tacos, all that kind of stuff," he says. "Everything we've made people like."

Authorities hope the new name will stop consumers from confusing copi with the common carp, known for its muddy flavor and small bones. "Somebody once said that the best way to cook and eat a common carp is to nail it to a pine board, smoke it, and then throw the fish away and eat the board," says John Goss, former director of the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and a consultant for the Asian Carp Control Project, per the Indianapolis Star. He says it's a different story with copi, a firm whitefish that consumers preferred to catfish in blind taste tests. Goss says the new name is "brilliant" and "conjures up classy, possibly Mediterranean images associated with fine food." (The Army is creating a "zone of chaos" to keep the fish out of Lake Michigan.)

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