• Outdoors Outdoors

Experts urge people to fish and eat species putting fishing industry at risk: 'It's delicious'

"Buying fish caught about 20 miles away from me and brought fresh every single day — I feel better."

"Buying fish caught about 20 miles away from me and brought fresh every single day — I feel better."

Photo Credit: iStock

Invasive fish species can drive out native species, upsetting the balance of the ecosystems in which they appear. One of the ways that ecologists have been encouraging people to deal with these invasive species is by eating them. For one invasive fish, the Asian carp, that has proved to be a bit of an uphill battle, Wired reported.

Asian carp were introduced in the United States in the 1970s and have since spread around the waterways of the South and Midwest. They are adaptable and hardy, and they eat up so much plankton and algae that they starve out native fish species that also rely on those food sources.

Experts fear that if they reach the Great Lakes, the results could be catastrophic.

The growing movement to encourage people to fish and eat the carp has had one major obstacle: To many Americans, the fish does not look particularly appetizing. Wired described it as "ugly" in its headline. (A bit pejorative, maybe, but fortunately, fish can't read.)

Another issue was the association between carp and bottom feeders. "The name was a barrier," said ecologist Kevin Irons of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

To combat that problem, the freshwater fishing industry has made a concerted effort to rebrand the Asian carp as "copi." Past attempts at rebranding underappreciated fish have been wildly successful — most notably with the Patagonian toothfish, which was renamed Chilean sea bass in the 1990s and is now a popular restaurant item.

The people behind the movement to rebrand the Asian carp are hoping for a similar level of success. Several chefs are already leading the way, including Top Chef mainstay Sara Bradley, who is now featuring copi — which she calls Kentucky silver carp — on the menu at her Kentucky restaurant Freight House.

"Buying fish caught about 20 miles away from me and brought fresh every single day — I feel better about that than buying Scottish salmon, farm-raised," Bradley said, "Plus, it's delicious."

Louisiana chef Philippe Parola is also at the forefront of the movement and has even written a cookbook titled "Can't Beat 'Em, Eat 'Em!: 40 Invasive Species With Recipes."

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Other invasive species that experts are encouraging people to eat include blue crabs in Italy, green crabs in New England, and many more.

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