Flush with $600K in federal funding diverted from Great Lakes restoration, Illinois tries to rebrand Invasive (Asian) Carp.
By Gary Wilson
It could have been an Onion headline
From ‘Carp” to ‘Copi’: unpopular fish getting a makeover
The Associated Press headline referred to the recent initiative to rebrand the fish formerly known as the Asian Carp, now Invasive Carp, to the concocted name, Copi.
At least that’s what Illinois, which “market-tested” Copi, will call it in yet another attempt by the state to make carp more palatable to the fish-consuming public. A few years ago the name “Silverfin” was floated but no takers.
Michigan officials aren’t impressed though and will still call the Invasive Carp by its proper name.
The rebranding is part of the Illinois’ Department of Natural Resources’ effort to reduce the population of Invasive Carp in the Illinois River to keep them away from the Great Lakes.
A permanent solution to keep the carp at bay is modifying the Brandon Road Lock and Dam past which the carp must traverse to get to the Great Lakes. But since 2009, efforts for an infrastructure fix have moved at glacial speed with late 2020’s now the estimated completion date. But that assumes funding is approved and Illinois is willing to incur a significant portion of the cost of the project, neither are a given.
But here's the real head-scratcher. The Copi branding endeavor is being funded with $600,000 in federal Great Lakes restoration money. Restoration, as in cleaning up toxic hot spots that remain from the peak industrial era of the 1950’s and ‘60’s.
Restoration as in restoring wetlands, removing dams to allow for free-flow of rivers and fish species to be in a natural habitat. Or educating grade-schoolers and beyond on the value of the Great Lakes since they will be the custodians of them.
I can think of no reason to spend $600,000 of taxpayer money on a frivolous marketing project, the type of which never gained traction in the past. And apparently others agree as my inbox and Twitter feed received a number of WTF inquiries.
And while we’re discussing names, what’s up with the use of “Invasive Carp?”
I understand the need to drop “Asian.” It’s socially inappropriate as it tags people of Asian descent with a negative they don’t deserve, similar to Asian Flu. We Americans need to stop doing that.
But “invasive” is not fair to the fish. The carp didn’t “invade” from Asia, they were brought here. Once here in the American South they went where the water allowed them to go, as fish do, and migrated up the Mississippi River. But our need to demonize what we don’t like or understand is alive and well.
But some good could come from this $600,000 folly if it is used to take a serious look at the multi-billion dollar Great Lakes restoration program that funded the “Copi” initiative.
How many more Copi-type, pork-barrel projects has it funded? I bet more than a few.
Chicago-based environmental journalist