Illinois rebrands Asian Carp as ‘Copi’ in effort to increase consumption and help environment

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Copi
Chicago chef Brian Jupiter's "Copi PoBoy." (Photo provided by IDNR)
Information provided by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (June 25, 2022) – Following more than two years of consumer research and planning, the State of Illinois on Wednesday unveiled “Copi,” the new name for Asian carp. Copi is a freshwater, top-feeding, wild-caught fish. The new name and brand are designed to address public misconceptions about this top-feeding fish, which is overrunning Midwest waterways.

How can a name change help the environment?

Copi are mild, clean-tasting fish with heart-healthy omega-3s and low levels of mercury. Increased consumption will help to stop them from decimating other fish populations in the Great Lakes and restore an ecological balance to waterways down stream.

“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 John Goss, former White House invasive carp adviser. “As home to the largest continuous link between Lake Michigan and the Copi-filled Mississippi River system, Illinois has a unique responsibility in the battle to keep invasive carp out of the Great Lakes.”

The new name is a play on “copious” — a word that describes these fish accurately. By one estimate, 20 million to 50 million pounds of Copi could be harvested from the Illinois River alone each year, with hundreds of millions more in waterways from the Midwest to the Gulf Coast.

(Photo provided by IDNR)

Changing a fish’s name has been a tried-and-true strategy for other fish. Orange Roughy was originally known as Slimehead; Chilean Sea Bass was known as Patagonian Toothfish (it’s not even a bass); and Peekytoe Crab was once known as Mud Crab. This strategy has been used for more than fish: exporters introduced Chinese gooseberries as “kiwi,” for instance.

Eating Copi

“Copi is a great name: Short, crisp and easy to say. What diner won’t be intrigued when they read Copi tacos or Copi burgers on a menu?” said Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Colleen Callahan. “It’s a tasty fish that’s easy to work with in the kitchen and it plates beautifully. Every time we’ve offered samples during the Illinois State Fair, people have walked away floored by how delicious it is.”

As part of the rebranding launch, 21 chefs and retailers have committed to putting Copi on their menus or in their stores, and 14 processors, manufacturers, and distributors are making Copi products available.

“Copi is more savory than tilapia, cleaner tasting than catfish, and firmer than cod,” said “Chopped” champion and chef Brian Jupiter, who revealed the new name and will serve Copi at his Ina Mae Tavern in Chicago. “It’s the perfect canvas for creativity — pan fried, steamed, broiled, baked, roasted, or grilled. Copi can be ground for burgers, fish cakes, dumplings, and tacos.”

A list of recommended recipes using Copi can be viewed at ChooseCopi.com.

Consumers can purchase Copi at the following locations:
• Ina Mae Tavern in Chicago: Copi po’boy.
• Dirk’s Fish & Gourmet Shop in Chicago: Copi Cuban sliders and Copi bolognese.
• Gaijin in Chicago: Smoked Copi dish.
• Herb in Chicago: Copi appetizer.
• Calumet Fisheries in Chicago: Smoked Copi for carryout.
• Kelleher’s Irish Pub in Peoria, Ill.: Copi slider.
• Carter’s Fish Market in Springfield, Ill.: Deep-fried Copi.
• Cash Saver in Camden, Tenn.: Copi strips.
• Tabard Inn in Washington, D.C.: Copi Dim Sum.
• Cristaudo’s in Carbondale, Ill.
• Sushi Grove in Buffalo Grove, Ill.: Copi sushi.
• A. Fusion in Matteson, Ill.: Variety of Copi dishes.
• Lakeway IGA in Paris, Tenn.: Copi strips.
• Schafer Fisheries Market in Fulton, Ill.: Variety of Copi items.
• Watson Lake Inn in Prescott, Ariz.: Custom prepared Copi dishes.
• Kubo Sushi and Sake Lounge in Elgin, Ill.: Copi sushi.
• The Meat Shoppe in Union City, Tenn.: Copi strips.
• The Norwegian in Rockford, Ill.
• Max’s Deli in Highland Park, Ill.: Smoked Copi.
• Trolinger’s in Paris, Tenn.
• Mole Village Restaurant in Chicago: Copi tacos.

Chefs and grocers can purchase Copi from the following processors, manufacturers and distributors:
• Kencor Ethnic Foods in Canton, Ill. (processor, manufacturer of Copi bouillon)
• River Sun Group in Chicago (processor, manufacturer of Copi cakes)
• Schafer Fisheries in Thomson, Ill. (processor)
• Third Generation SFD in Bronx, N.Y. (distributor, Fulton Fish Market)
• Seafood Merchants in Vernon Hills, Ill. (distributor for Illinois, Wisconsin)
• Sorce Freshwater/Midwest Fish Co-Op in East Peoria, Ill. (processor)
• Supreme Lobster in Villa Park, Ill. (distributor for Illinois, Indiana, Nevada, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin; possible air shipment nationally)
• Susie Q Fish Company in Two Rivers, Wis. (processor and retail)
• Two Rivers Fisheries in Wyckliffe, Ky. (processor)
• Chippin in Silver Springs, Md. (distributor)
• North American Caviar in Paris, Tenn. (processor)
• Fortune Fish & Gourmet in Bensenville, Ill. (distributor for, Illinois, Wisconsin, Missouri, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Arkansas, Nebraska, Louisiana and Texas)
• Gordon Food Service in Grand Rapids, Mich. (distributor, nationwide)
• Freshwater Fish Products in Bradford, Ark. (processor)

Illinois officials will apply to formally change the name with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year. When sold in grocery stores, the packaging will describe the fish as carp and Copi until federal regulators approve the name change. The state also has applied to register the trademark so that industry groups will be able to develop standards and ensure quality control.

Copi’s history and impact

Copi were originally imported from Southeast Asia to the United States to help keep clean fish farm retention ponds in Southern states. But flooding and accidental releases in the 1970s allowed them to escape, multiply, and migrate up the Mississippi River system.

Ever since, a collaboration of local, state, and federal government entities have worked to prevent the invasive species from entering Lake Michigan, which would threaten a $7 billion-a-year commercial fishing industry and a $16 billion-a-year tourism industry in the Great Lakes.

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