Illinois renames Asian Carp to seem more appealing: What this means for Michigan, our Great Lakes

Asian Carp to be rebranded as ‘Copi’ on menus, at grocery stores

FILE - In this June 13, 2012, file photo, Asian carp, jolted by an electric current from a research boat, jump from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill. Minnesota state Sen. Foung Hawj and fellow Sen. John Hoffman have won approval of a measure requiring that Minnesota agencies refer to the fish as "invasive carp." Now some other government agencies are taking the same step in the wake of anti-Asian hate crimes that surged during the coronavirus pandemic. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service quietly changed its designation to "invasive carp" in April. (AP Photo/John Flesher, File) (John Flesher, Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

CHICAGO – Asian Carp is getting a new name in the state of Illinois.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources on Wednesday held a virtual event with Chopped champion Brian Jupiter of Frontier and Ina Mae Tavern. The idea behind the rebrand? To help restore waterways in the Great Lakes and encourage fish lovers to cook up the fish.

The Illinois DNR said that the very frowned upon fish has a mild flavor, and harvesting can help prevent the spread of where these fish dominate in the waters.

A Chicago chef said that the fish is a good alternative for ground beef in terms of flavor. From Asian Carp burgers to tacos, this fish appears to be quite versatile. As the chef says: “If you can’t beat it, eat ‘em.”

“It has a nice, mild flavor, a pleasant surprise that should help fix its reputation,” Jupiter said during Wednesday’s announcement of the rebrand. The chef also detailed how adaptable the fish is to a variety of cuisines.

Chef Tim Creehan, right, and chef Philippe Parola prepare food at Christ the King Jesuit College Preparatory High School on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2011, in Chicago. Launch of a campaign by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to try and change the fish's image and teach people how to cook the ultra-bony meat. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh) (Associated Press)

This isn’t the first time a fish was rebranded for consumer consumption. The fish known as “Orange Roughy” was originally known as “Slimehead.”

Read more: Worries over racism, waterways inspire push to rename fish

Asian Carp has been dominating parts of the Mississippi River and threatening other Midwestern rivers as well as Michigan’s beloved Great Lakes for years. According to the Michigan government, invasive carp have been found close to Lake Michigan. Recent data reported that invasive carp have been spotted 10 miles from the electric barriers installed in the Chicago Area Waterway System.

Joanne Foreman, the communications coordinator of the invasive species program from Michigan’s DNR, said she agrees with the rebrand, but wanted to emphasize that this tool is not the long-term answer to avoiding the invasive fish.

“Our concern is the protection of the Great Lakes,” said Foreman. “Invasive carp is the highest level of threat in Michigan and they can do severe damage to the Great Lakes.”

The state has been preparing so that invasive carp can make its way to Michigander’s plates, but there are laws that are in place to make sure that even the dead fish can do no harm to our waters.

Last summer, the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act, 1994 PA 451, was submitted to help regulate fish in Michigan waters. Within the act, there are requirements for the possession of prohibited species and transportation of the ones that are dead. This includes Silver Carp, which many of us know as Asian Carp.

The act states that there is potential for an invasive carp to be captured, put on ice and survive any shipments to Michigan. In order for the invasive species to be sold to consumers, the internal organs have to be removed or hills to be severed.

The Great Lakes have been fortunate not to have encountered invasive carps within Michigan waters, but the risk is still there.

Related: Governors jointly request federal funding to stop invasive carp from entering Great Lakes

Foreman explains that Illinois’ initiative to encourage residents to eat carp is to help reduce the pressure of them getting close to the Great Lakes barrier. She said that the states of Illinois and Michigan have been working together diligently to avoid invasive carp entering, and possibly destroying, the ecosystem that lives within our state.

Michigan DNR urges those who have witnessed any Asian Carp within the Great Lakes to report it. Click here to make a report.

Below are descriptions of invasive carp to be on the lookout for.

Invasive CarpDetails
Black CarpBlackish-brown scales with a blueish gray to white belly. Pharyngeal teeth. Can grow up to six feet and weighing 150 lbs.
Juvenile Silver CarpSilvery without dark blotches or any coloration on the back. Also has an upturned mouth. Can grow up to three feet long and weighing 60 lbs.
Juvenile Grass CarpCan have coloring from pale gray to gold with dark-edged scales. Scales tend to be large. Can grow up to five feet long and weighing 80 lbs.
Bighead CarpDark gray with dark-colored blotches. Large head with eyes that sit below toothless mouth. Can grow up to five feet long and weighing 90 lbs.

Here is a video from the Michigan DNR for a visual description of what the invasive carps look like.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Washington is a Digital Producer and has been with Local 4 News since April 2022.