After two years of research and planning the State of Illinois has unveiled a new name for the Asain carp. And now they want us to help save The Great Lakes by eating more of it.

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According to New York State's Invasive Species Information website, Asian carp are native to Asia and are two different species of fish, the bighead carp and the silver carp. They were originally imported to the Southern United States to provide an inexpensive, fast-growing addition to fresh fish markets. In 1980 Asian carp was found in the natural waters in the Mississippi River Basin, and eventually overwhelmed the Mississippi and Illinois River systems.

The State of Illinois is worried about Asian carp making its way from the Illinois River to the Great Lakes via the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal. This is probably where the State of Illinois became motivated to get more people to eat Asian carp. And the best way to do that? Apparently through the power of marketing.

So today, June 22, 2022, the State of Illinois unveiled the new name for Asian carp after two years of consumer research and planning.

Say goodbye to Asian carp and say hello to Copi. The State of Illinois says the name Copi is a play on "copious" because that's exactly what these fish are. The state says one estimation says 20 million to 50 million pounds of Copi could be harvested from the Illinois River alone, with hundreds of millions more in waterways from the Midwest to the Golf Coast.

So what does Copi taste like and is it good for us? According to the State of Illinois release:

Copi are mild, clean-tasting fish with heart-healthy omega-3s and very low levels of mercury.

The State of Illinois hopes increased consumption will stop Copi from decimating other fish populations in the Great Lakes and restore an ecological balance to waterways downstream. That's the ecological part of this.

Span Studios via Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
Span Studios via Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
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The marketing part of this is giving fish, or other foods, with names that some may find unappealing or just unattractive a new brand. The State of Illinois cites Chilean sea bass as an example. Its name before that was Patagonian toothfish. It's not even a bass by the way. The peekytoe crab once was known as the mud crap. And Chinese exporters introduced Chinese gooseberries as kiwi.

"Chopped" champion and chef Brian Jupiter says, "Copi is more savory than tilapia, cleaner tasting than catfish, and firmer than cod." He will be featuring Copi on the menu at his Ina Mae Tavern in Chicago. At this point, Copi will be available in more than several places in Chicago, and downstate in Peoria, Springfield, and Fulton.

As far as Missouri is concerned, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says Missouri isn't ready to rename the invasive species. Yet, the Missouri Department of Conservation told the paper in addition to their own abatement and eradication efforts they too have been attempting to convince people that Asian carp are good eats. Spokesman Joe Jerek told the Post-Dispatch:

We have had bighead and silver carp cleaning/filleting demonstrations and served cooked invasive carp at the state fair that met with great approval from everyone that tried it.

Frankly, if Copi's passed the Missouri State Fair test, then I'll try one. Just bread it and deep fry it for me, please. Maybe throw some cocktail-based sauce on it and I'll be good to go.

That also bodes well for the State of Illinois' rebranding and introduction of Copi to the masses. Who knows, someday Copi might just be THE item on the menu at every midwestern river town restaurant from Chicago to Louisiana.

To learn where you can dine on Copi, or pick up fresh Copi to prepare yourself there's a website you can go to to check it out. Choosecopi.com.

 

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