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Sunday, November 27, 2022

A ‘copy’ plaque? Illinois hopes new name for ‘invasive carp’ will convince diners

Traverse City, Mich. ( Associated Press) – You’re in the mood to fish and your server suggests a dish of aggressive carp. Uh, you can say. But how about a freshly boiled kopi from the Mississippi River?

Here’s the catch: They are the same thing.

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Illinois and affiliates on Wednesday resumed a market-testing campaign called “Copy,” formerly known collectively as Asian Carp, in hopes the new label would make them more accessible to American consumers. will make it attractive.

Turning carp into a popular household and restaurant menu item is one way officials hope to rein in a decades-old invasion threatening the Mississippi and other Midwestern rivers, as well as native fish, mussels and aquatic plants in the Great Lakes.

“The name ‘carp’ is so harsh that people won’t even try it,” said Kevin Irons, assistant fisheries chief for the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. “But it’s healthy, clean and it tastes really good.”

The federal Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is funding a five-year, $600,000 project to rebrand the carp and make them widely available. More than two dozen distributors, processors, restaurants and retailers have signed on. Most are in Illinois, but some distribute in several states or across the country.

“It could be a tremendous success,” said John Goss, who led the Obama administration’s effort to stop the carp invasion and worked on the name change project. “The next few years are very important for building confidence and acceptance.”

SPAN, a Chicago communications design company, came up with “Copy”. It’s an acronym on “prolific”—a reference to the growing population of bighead, silver, grass, and black carp in the US heartland.

They fled to Mississippi in the 1960s–70s to eat algae from Deep South sewage lagoons and fish farms imported from Asia. They have affected most of the river and many tributaries, ousting native species such as bass and crappie.

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Regulators have spent more than $600 million to protect them from waters like the Great Lakes and Barkley Lake on the Kentucky-Tennessee line. Strategies include installing electric barriers at choke points and hiring workers to harvest fish for products such as fertilizer and pet food. Other technologies – underwater noisemakers, air bubble curtains – are in the works.

It would help if more people ate the critters, which are popular in other countries. Officials estimate that 50 million pounds (22.7 million kilograms) may be purified annually in the Illinois River between the Mississippi and Lake Michigan. Even more are available from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast.

“Government subsidies alone will not end this war,” Goss said. “Private sector, market-driven demand for copy may be our best hope.”

In the US, carp are primarily known as muddy-tasting bottom feeders. Bighead and silver carp, the primary targets of the “copy” expedition, live high in the water column, feeding on algae and plankton. Grass carp eat aquatic plants, while black carp prefer mussels and snails. All four are high in omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury and other contaminants, Irons said.

“It has a nice, mild flavor … a pleasant surprise that may help recover its reputation,” said Chicago chef Brian Jupiter. The fish is well suited to many cuisines, including Cajun, Asian and Latin, he said.

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Yet it can be a tough sell, especially because the fish’s notoriously bony make it challenging to produce fillet for many eaters expect, Jupiter said. Sliced ​​or ground copy can be used in some of the best recipes, he said.

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Dirk and Terry Fusik, owners of Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop in Chicago, said they have sold carp burgers for years and offer carp meatballs, tacos and other dishes.

The SPAN researchers considered several names — among them “Butterfin” — before settling on “copy,” Irons said. It looked charming, a little foreign, even funny, he said.

Design principal Nick Adam said SPAN conducted surveys, interviews and focus group meetings with more than 350 Illinois residents.

Next step: Getting approval from the federal Food and Drug Administration, which says that “fabricated or fictional” fish labels can be used if not misleading or confusing. A familiar example is “Slimhead”, which became a hit after the market’s nickname was changed to “orange roughy”.

Illinois also plans to register the “copy” trademark, to enable industry groups to develop quality control processes, Irons said.

Other regulatory agencies and scientific groups have their own policies and may not switch.

The American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists and the American Fisheries Society have a committee that catalogs fish titles, including scientific names in Latin and long-accepted common names. The panel never adopted “Asian carp” as an umbrella term for an invasive species.

Midwest director Charlie Woolley said the US Fish and Wildlife Service plans to go with “invasive carp” and four different names, as its focus is on managing and controlling their spread. The Invasive Carp Regional Coordinating Committee, which includes several federal, state, local and Canadian provincial agencies, will do the same.

He left “Asian Carp” last year due to concerns about anti-Asian bigotry.

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