Asian carp: Illinois announces renaming the fish in hopes more people will eat it

Asian carp by any other name is still an Asian carp — but Illinois officials hope people will bite it.

A new name for the damaged fish will be announced Wednesday by state officials who hope the rebranding will shed the negative image of the muddy-tasting bottom feeder and introduce the truth — they eat plankton off the top and taste good. .

The “big reveal” will be presented by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, which has hired a design team to come up with the new name and accompanying logo.

“We did extensive testing and talked to people, close to 1,000 people looked at and reviewed the name and designs, and this design was absolutely fantastic, and it beat the other names,” said Nick Adam, Principal of Span Studio. .

Adam, who was working for a different company at the time, also helped coin the name “Divvy” for the city’s bike-sharing program.

State officials hope that the rebranding will lead to more people eating the fish, which will lead to more commercial fishing to pull them from the Illinois River and, eventually, reduce their numbers and the risk that Asian carp will eventually make their way to the Great Lakes. .

Fish, an invasive and voracious species, can endanger the ecosystem of the Great Lakes by eating too many plankton, the basis of the food chain of many other organisms.

This effort was supported by $600,000 in federal funding through the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative to restore the initial brand and to bring the name into the public’s mind over the course of three or four years of marketing.

“You can get a great start but that’s just the beginning of the race,” said Kevin Irons, assistant head of fisheries at IDNR. “But at some point, we kind of want to get out of the way and deliver it to the industry.”

Irons hopes that rebranding and the accompanying logo will create a lasting association akin to “milk is good for the body” or “pork. The other white meat.”

Illinois officials will file a formal name change through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by the end of the year.

One of the requirements for a name change is the widespread use of the new name.

Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop in Lincoln Park, grills an Asian carp burger outside his shop in October 2020.

Anthony Vazquez Profile/Sun Times

One complaint about fish is that they are bony and not only bony, but have Y-shaped bones that are difficult to remove from the pin bones found in many fish such as salmon.

That’s why Dirk Fucik, owner of Dirk’s Fish in Lincoln Park, grinds up Asian carp and bones and everything, turning the meat into burger patties and meatballs.

He’s been serving Asian carp to customers for years – with limited success.

A decade ago, he introduced the Asian carp burger at the Taste of Chicago for people to try.

The initial hesitation was overcome when people learned he was giving them for free.

“Then everyone loved them,” Vucic said.

Chef Brian Jupiter will be part of Wednesday’s rebranding announcement and plans to serve fish at his restaurant, Ina Mae Tavern in Wicker Park.

Jupiter said fish is saltier than tilapia, cleaner in taste than catfish and firmer than cod.

Lee Lantz, a retired West Coast fish wholesaler known for renaming Patagonian tooth fish to Chilean sea fish, said more samples of Asian carp are needed to get a firm idea.

“You’re going to need more than just a name,” said Lantz, 74, a California native who took a break from riding a motorcycle cross-country to chat with the Chicago Sun-Times from an Oregon gas station.

“It’s a big project because no one is going to buy fish just to help clean them out of the rivers,” he said.

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