Want to grill up some copi? Illinois hopes you’ll take a bite of the fish also known as Asian carp

CHICAGO (CBS) — How about grilling up a nice fillet of copi for dinner?

Never heard of it?

Maybe you’re more familiar with its old name: Asian carp. The Illinois Department of Natural Resources kicked off a new rebranding campaign to make the invasive species of a fish sound a little more appetizing.

CBS 2’s Charlie De Mar actually took a taste of Asian Carp, or copi, himself on Wednesday night.

Asian carp have long been viewed as an overpopulated and invasive species — a throwaway fish. They were the subject of a heated controversy about a decade ago – in which other Great Lakes states unsuccessfully sued to have the locks on the Sanitary and Ship Canal closed so as to keep Asian carp from making their way to the Mississippi River to Lake Michigan and the other Great Lakes.

Illinois state leaders are still trying to keep the Asian carp out of the Great Lakes. But they do want the fish on your plates.

At Herb Thai Restaurant, at 5424 N. Broadway in Edgewater, Chef Patty Neumson was cooking up some Thai curry fish cakes Wednesday evening.

The catch of the day was none other than Asian carp – which has been on the menu for about a week.

“I want to help the state,” Neumson said. “I want to help to show the people what I can do.”

The State of Illinois wants to get Asian carp onto more plates. They hope a new name – copi, as in the copious amounts of such fish found in Illinois waterways – will be the answer.

The rebrand was announced Wednesday by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The website ChooseCopi.com suggested people could enjoy beer-battered copi, almond-crusted copi, Tuscan herb copi, copi-stuffed mushrooms, copi ceviche, and copi po’boys – among other delights.

The name change and rebrand worked for the Chilean sea bass – once known as the Patagonian toothfish. Meanwhile, dolphinfish made too many people think of marine mammals with flippers – until it was rebranded as mahi-mahi.

The idea is to change the perception of the fish – so that diners will want to eat the carp, restaurants will serve the fish, and demand for commercial fishing will increase. This in turn could help dwindle the Asian carp population – and keep them from invading the great lakes.

“I think it can change people’s minds,” Neumson said.

Videos of the jumping Asian carp have gone viral for years. Unlike most bottom-feeding carp, the Asian carp or copi species eat plankton and algae from the surface – making them perfect to plate.

“Come and try,” Neumson said. “You will never forget the flavor.”

De Mar had some of Neumson’s Copi Thai curry fish cake. He was pleased.

The rebranding effort is backed by $600,000 in federal funding.

This is not the first attempt at rebranding the Asian carp to make it more appetizing – though the earlier attempts were not efforts with the backing of the state.

Back in 2010, chef Phillip Foss – a veteran of the Lockwood Restaurant at the Palmer House Hilton – served up the fish in ceviche form under the name “Shanghai bass.”

The following year, Louisiana chef Phillippe Parola began selling fish cakes made of Asian carp – which he rebranded Silverfin.

Illinois will formally apply to change the name with the Food and Drug Administration. One requirement for changing the name is widespread use of that new name copi.

Illinois officials will apply to formally change the name with the FDA by the end of the year.

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