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Asian carp renamed 'copi' to make invasive fish more appetizing

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Asian carp renamed 'copi' to make invasive fish more appetizing
Illinois Department of Natural Resources renames Asian carp "copi" to entice more people to dine on the invasive fish. Photo courtesy of usgs.gov.

June 22 (UPI) -- Illinois is rebranding Asian carp with the new name "copi" to encourage more people to eat the invasive fish.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources announced the name change Wednesday as part of its push to keep the invasive species from making it into the Great Lakes. Asian carp currently represent 70% of the fish population in the Mississippi River region.

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Copi is short for the copious amounts of the fresh fish that are "over-consuming the small food items native fish need in their diets to survive," the department said. Asian carp include Bighead carp, Silver carp, Grass carp and Black carp.

The state hopes the rebrand draws attention to the clean, fresh flavor of the fish, along with its health benefits. The department even launched a website called "choose copi" which listed tasty facts about the fish, retailers, as well as cooking videos and recipes ranging from copi fish tacos to copi cakes.

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"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, a former White House adviser on invasive carp. "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."

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Restaurants consider Asian carp top feeders because of their appetite for grasses, plankton or mussels. Other carp tend to be bottom feeders with a darker flesh and stronger taste.

"Copi is more savory than tilapia, cleaner tasting than catfish and firmer than cod. It's the perfect canvas for creativity -- pan fried, steamed, broiled, baked, roasted or grilled," said chef Brian Jupiter of Ina Mae Tavern.

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It is also considered healthy with protein content second to wild salmon with high levels of Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids.

Copi was brought from Asia to the United States more than 50 years ago to help clear up algae and weeds, but the fish overpopulated and migrated up the Mississippi River.

While the name copi does not have approval yet from the Food and Drug Administration, widespread use of the new name is one of the FDA's requirements to rebrand it.

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Illinois' campaign urged everyone to "save the Great Lakes by eating fresh fish."

"By regularly adding this delicious, nutritious and environmentally friendly wild-caught fish to our meals and menus, we can save the future of our waterways and ultimately, the Great Lakes."

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