Local agencies in Illinois have partnered with organizations to launch a rebranding campaign to elevate a group of invasive fish species into a more enticing food item.
The initiative will cover bighead, silver, grass and black carp, four carp species imported from China in the ‘70s to help clear algae from fish farms and sewage lagoons in the Deep South. They eventually became a major problem after flooding caused them to escape into the Mississippi River towards the Great Lakes.
The fish species, which have collectively been known as “Asian carp,” will now be known as “copi” via the new campaign to make them more attractive to consumers.
Coined by Chicago communications design company Span, “copi” is an abbreviated version of the word “copious,” which references the fish species’ abundant population.
“The ‘carp’ name is so harsh that people won’t even try it,” said Kevin Irons, assistant fisheries chief with the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “But it’s healthy, clean and it really tastes pretty darn good.”
The five-year, $600,000 project, which is being funded by the federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative, has signed on over two dozen distributors, processors, restaurants and retailers.
“Illinois has a special responsibility to do everything in its power to manage these fish,” IDNR spokesperson Jayette Bolinski said. “That’s why we’re leading the way on rebranding the fish and establishing a supply chain” for the fish as a food source.
Since carp have a negative reputation in the U.S. as bottom feeders, the “copi” campaign is highlighting that two of the four carp species — bighead and silver carp — are top-feeding, and all four are high in omega-3 fatty acids.
Those behind the campaign plan to formally change the name with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year.
Last year, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service dropped “Asian carp” and assigned the term “invasive carp” to “move away from any terms that cast Asian culture and people in a negative light.” The agency and other organizations intend to stick with the term.
Featured Image via PBS NewsHour