Bon appétit: Try some copi to help save our waterways
Asian carp have a new moniker — “copi” — and if enough diners go for it, the rebranding will help get more of the invasive species out of the water and into our tummies.
The fish previously known as Asian carp are about to take center stage in the Chicago area dining scene.
Or maybe it’s more appropriate to say “Copi” that.
The Illinois Department of Natural Resources unveiled the invasive species’ new moniker and a splashy logo Wednesday, capping off a two-year rebranding effort to get more copi out of the water and into our tummies.
There are plenty fish in the sea, er, Illinois River and surrounding waterways south to the Gulf Coast.
But the newly named copi — a nod to the copious amounts out there — are notorious for scarfing down way too much plankton, organisms that other aquatic creatures also need to eat. Should they reach Lake Michigan and other Great Lakes, they pose a threat to the ecosystem.
So let’s do our duty, dig in and keep copi on the menu. No joke. The more we eat, the more commercial fishing operations will extract the fish from the Illinois River and the less of a threat they will be to our waterways.
“Enjoying copi in a restaurant or at home is one of the easiest things people can do to help protect our waterways and Lake Michigan,” said former White House invasive carp adviser John Goss.
Convincing consumers that copi make “excellent table fare,” as the U.S. Geological Survey describes it, is exactly why state officials sought a name change.
“Copi is more savory than tilapia, cleaner tasting than catfish and firmer than cod,” chef Brian Jupiter, who will serve the fish at his Ina Mae Tavern in Wicker Park, told Food & Wine.
Scaling away at their negative image with a makeover isn’t a fish out of water concept. Seafood has been rebranded before, as we pointed out last year.
No one is about to try eating anything called slimehead — but orange roughy? That’s become pretty popular.
Patagonian toothfish doesn’t sound appetizing either, but Chilean sea bass has become a pricey item on many restaurant menus.
Even the once-maligned whore’s eggs has became a delicacy with the more refined name of sea urchin.
Illinois officials will apply to formally change the name of the Asian carp with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of 2022.
Maybe by then, throngs of foodies will cop to how delicious copi is — and our waterways will be a bit safer.
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