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These invasive carp are getting a name change so more Americans will eat them

The fish’s expanding population could cause irreparable damage to aquatic ecosystems in the Midwest

This June 22, 2012, photo shows Travis Schepker, a biology intern, holding an Asian carp pulled from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill. Scientists are monitoring native fish populations for signs of damage from Asian carp.
This June 22, 2012, photo shows Travis Schepker, a biology intern, holding an Asian carp pulled from the Illinois River near Havana, Ill.
Robert Ray, Associated Press

An invasive group of fish commonly referred to as Asian carp will soon have a new name.

USA Today reports that Illinois officials are working to give the invasive fish a rebrand that will sound more appetizing to consumers. According to the site, the carp’s new name will be revealed over the summer before the Boston Seafood Show in mid July.

Asian carp is a blanket name used for any of four species of carp: bighead, black, grass and silver, Food & Wine reports. According to the site, these fish, by and large, are tasty and healthy to eat, though their names don’t appear on many seafood restaurant menus.

Dirk Fucik, the owner of Dirk’s Fish and Gourmet Shop in Chicago, told USA Today why the fish’s current name needs to be altered. “To us in America, we think of carp as a bottom-feeding, muddy-tasting fish, which it is sometimes,” he said, “but Asian carp is a plankton-feeder. It’s a different type of flesh — much cleaner, sweeter-tasting meat.”

Clay Ferguson, a Ph.D. student in Virginia Tech’s Department of Food Science and Technology, added (via Food & Wine), “If you are one of the few who try and don’t like Asian carp, that fish was either poorly handled, overcooked or you just don’t like fish.”

The Takeout reports that Asian carp were first introduced to controlled environments in the U.S. in the 1970s with the intention that they would eat algae at water treatment plants and clean up catfish ponds.

According to USA Today, a combination of natural floods and human error resulted in the Asian carp’s escape from those controlled environments and they now inhabit the Missouri and Illinois Rivers. Scientists are concerned that if the invasive fish reach the Great Lakes, they could cause colossal, perhaps irreparable, damage to the lakes’ ecosystems.

The hope is that a name change can spark interest in consuming the carp, which would help manage its ever-expanding population.

Food & Wine reports that several other species of fish have experienced rebrands in the past. U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service changed the name of the carnivorous deep-sea slimehead to the orange roughy in 1970. The Patagonian toothfish is now more commonly known as Chilean sea bass and in England, the Cornish Fish Producers Organization is attempting to rebrand two of its local sea dwellers. The organization has proposed to renamed the megrim fish as Cornish sole and change the name of spider crabs to Cornish king crabs.