Invasive Asian Carp Gets Renamed To Sound More Appetizing to Consumers

by Taylor Cunningham
No release required

The invasive Asian Carp is getting a new, more appetizing name—copi.

Asian Carp have been plaguing Illinois waterways for decades, and they’re doing irreparable damage to the ecosystem. So officials are hoping to cut their population by turning them into a dinner-time delicacy. And they thought they needed a more exotic-sounding name to entice buyers.

“There’s like 20 million pounds of copi in Illinois rivers, ” said Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop. “So, there’s a ton of them out there. One of the reasons [behind] the name is ‘copious.’ So there’s copious amount of copi out there. So we should all eat it.”

The species was intentionally introduced to the United States in the 1970s as a way of controlling nuisance algal blooms in wastewater treatment plants and aquaculture ponds. The government believed it could keep them contained in specific areas. But within 10 years, the fish spread to the Mississippi River and then into rivers in Missouri and Illinois, according to USGS.

Asian carp reproduce rapidly and they directly compete with native carp species’ food and habitat. As a result, they’re depopulating the necessary fish. Copi are also hurting the recreational and commercial fishing industries.

The current concern is that the fish will spread into the Great Lakes. If they do, experts believe it will impact the $7 billion year fishing industry even more.

Since becoming a problem the government has spent an estimated $600 million to eradicate the problem. But the efforts have mostly been made in vain.

Each year, fishermen would be able to remove 20 to 30 million lbs of Asian carp a year, in Ilinois alone. And as it stands, when officials do remove them, they simply become waste. If it became a typical food, the abundance would benefit the economy instead.

“It’s a green choice, right?” asked Kevin Irons, assistant chief of fisheries with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “We’re in a place where we’re challenged with climate and how far our food travels. Let’s have a locally-driven food source consumed—locally and fresh. And not shipped halfway around the world.”

“You get quality, and it’s actually green,” he added.

As Fucik explained, you can substitute ground copi for ground meat in any recipe. So, it would be easy for restaurants to use the economical fish, which typically only costs $6 lb. To put that into perspective, he pays $50 lb for more common fish like Chilean sea bass.

In his business, he uses copi in burgers, tacos, sausages, and meatballs. And people have been loving them.

“If you can beat ’em, eat ’em,” he added.