Asian CarpCopi, The Fish Formally Known as Asian Carp; a Rebranding to Save the Great Lakes


By: Blythe Pabon

To protect the Great Lakes from Asian Carp, Illinois officials are turning to a strategy struggling artists have used for decades, a rebrand. [1] The Illinois Department of Natural Resources hired local Chicago Communication Studio, Span, with the crisis focused rebrand. [2] Asian Carp is an invasive species and poses substantial harm to Lake Michigan’s ecosystem, which provides drinking water for over half of the state of Illinois.[3] In its rebranding campaign, Span highlighted the truths about Asian carp, including how Asian Carp is the second healthiest fish in the world. In fact, the truth about Asian Carp’s copious and invasive nature inspired the new name, Copi.[4]

What are Copi, and Why Rebrand?

The term Copi, or Asian Carp, refers to four different types of carp that were imported from Asia: Bighead, Silver, Grass, and Black Carp.[5] All types of Copi present physical, ecological, and economic threats. For example, a Silver Carp can grow up to 40 kilograms and, when startled, can jump three meters above the water’s surface.[6] This makes their jumping behavior hazardous to those in boats or along the shore.[7] Additionally, All Copi, especially Silver and Bighead carp, out compete native fish for food and resources.[8] Copi are able to eat five to twenty percent their body weight every day.[9]

Not only do Copi eat copious amounts of food, but they also breed prolifically.[10] Thanks to their breeding habits, Copi make up a staggering seventy percent of the biomass in the Illinois River.[11] Native plants and fish simply cannot keep up with Copi’s insane breeding and eating habits. As a result, the “biodiversity loss is apt to make the entire eco-system more fragile.”[12] Like the potato’s dominance in Ireland, when a single piece of an ecosystem swells to such glutenous size in proportion to the rest, disaster can occur with a single event.

From Asia to the Great Lakes

Copi were originally imported to the United States in 1963 to research the control of aquatic vegetation in Arkansas.[13] The imported fish escaped Arkansas waters in 1966 and made its way to Illinois.[14] After their first spotting in Illinois, Copi’s population exploded in the lower half of the Illinois River and began heading towards Lake Michigan.[15] Before the 1903 construction of the Chicago Sanitary & Shipping Canal (CSSC), Copi entering Lake Michigan was impossible.[16]  The CSSC is a permanent connection between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi River Basin built to protect Lake Michigan’s ecosystem from Chicago wastewater.[17] Now, the biggest threat to Lake Michigan, Copi, has access to Lake Michigan through the CSSC.

Efforts so Far: Legislation and Electric Barriers

As the threat of Copi grew, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) received funding to build an underwater electric barrier to prevent Copi from transferring to the Great Lakes.[18] The USACE identified the Brandon Road Lock and Dam near Joliet, Illinois as a “critical pinch point” and that’s where the demonstration dispersal barrier (Barrier I) began operation in 2002. However, in late 2002 Copi were found twenty-one miles past the barrier.[19] This prompted the USACE to build a second more permanent barrier. The second barrier was built in two parts (Barrier IIA and IIB) that began operation in 2009 and 2011.[20]

While the USACE was building Barrier IIB, the United States Congress passed the Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act (ACPCA) which added Copi to the list of injurious wildlife, making it illegal to transport living Copi.[21] With bolstered support from Congress, the USACE, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of the Interior, and the U.S. Coast Guard outlined an Asian Carp Control Strategy Framework (Framework).[22] This Framework outlined an aggressive strategy to manage Copi, including awarding a $10.5 million contract to construct the second half of Barrier II.[23]

The electric barriers deter Copi’s migration by keeping the water in the CSSC electrified. Barrier I “operates at a maximum in-water field strength at the water surface of 1 volt/inch with pulse parameters of 5 hertz (pulses per second), 4 ms (pulse duration in milliseconds).”[24] Barriers IIA and IIB “operate at 2.3 volts/inch, 34 Hz, 2.3 ms.”[25] Furthermore, because the CSSC is continuously electrified it provides risks to the people on ships passing through the canal. As a result, the U.S. Coast Guard has no way of safely recovering a victim, thus accidentally falling into the water could prove fatal.[26]

The Barriers to the Barriers: Funding

The effectiveness of the second barrier prompted supplemental funding to update Barrier I.[27] Plans to update Barrier I include building a new northern and southern array (Barrier I North and Barrier I South) and upgrading the original demonstration Barrier I.[28] The estimated cost of upgrading Barrier I and further construction of the Brandon Road Lock and Dam Invasive carp barrier is $850 million.[29] The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act which was passed in November 2021, provided $17 billion of supplemental funding to the USACE.[30] The USACE allocated $225.8 million of the supplemental funds toward the $850 million project. However, USACE cannot foot the bill alone, the states surrounding Lake Michigan also have a responsibility in funding the project.[31] For example, Illinois is responsible for 20 percent of the project, roughly $170 million.[32]

However, Illinois does not have $170 million allocated to spend on the project. On February 18, 2021, Illinois House Representatives Greg Harris and Fred Crispo introduced House Bill 2677 which specifically allocates $73 million of funding for preventing and managing Copi.[33] The Rules Committee began reviewing the bill in July 2021, and there does not appear to be active movement toward passage.[34]

In the meantime, Illinois embarked on a rebranding campaign. A rebranding campaign that seems successful, Copi are available in eight states, hitting their projection numbers, and they are even served in some Michelin-Star restaurants.[35] The best thing that people can do now to make a direct impact is to go to a local restaurant and eat lots of Copi.



[1] Tom May, Chicago Studio Span Rebrands Asian Carp as ‘Copi’ to Help US Biodiversity, Creative Boom (Oct. 4, 2022), [].

[2] Id.

[3] Lake Michigan, Illinois Environmental Protection Agency, (last visited Nov. 5, 2022) []; Illinois Population,,,Chicago%20located%20in%20the%20northeast (last visited Nov. 5, 2022) [].

[4] May, supra note 1.

[5] Asian Carp, Government of Canada (June 6, 2022), [].

[6] Id.

[7] Id.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Chris Bentley, If you can’t beat ‘em, eat ‘em: Illinois Fisheries Rebrand the Invasive Asian Carp, WBUR: Here & Now (Jul. 01, 2022),  [].

[12] supra, note 5.

[13] Detailed Timeline for Invasive Carp in the United States, Tip of the Mitt Watershed Council, (last visited Nov. 5, 2022) [].

[14] Id.

[15] Kevin S. Irons and Greg G. Sass, Rising Concern, Outdoor Illinois, March 2007, at 2,

[16] supra, note 13.

[17] Id.

[18] Anne E. Normand and R. Eliot Crafton, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Invasive Species Efforts, Congressional Research Service, at 2,

[19] supra, note 13.

[20] Electric Barriers, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers: Chicago District Website,,connections%20to%20a%20control%20building (last visited Nov. 5, 2022) [].

[21] Asian Carp Bill Signed Into Law, Sherrod Brown: U.S. Senator for Ohio, (Dec. 14, 2010), []; Asian Carp Prevention and Control Act, 124 S.T.A.T. 3282 (2010),

[22] Federal Officials Unveil Aggressive Strategy to Reduce Threat of Asian Carp in the Great Lakes, The White House (Feb. 8, 2010), [].

[23] Id.

[24] supra, note 20.

[25] supra, note 20.

[26] Kyle Hill, The Water That the Coast Guard Won’t Save You From, Discover: But Not Simpler (May 16, 2014, 3:11 PM), []; Soundings Trade Only, Coast Guard Study Finds Rules are Adequate for Electric Fish Barrier, Passagemaker (Apr. 21, 2017), [].

[27] supra, note 20.

[28] supra, note 20.

[29] Marissa Nelson, Boost in Funding Moves Invasive Carp Barrier Forward: ‘This Money Can’t Come Soon Enough, WTTW News: Science & Nature (Jan. 24, 2022, 8:41 PM), [].

[30] Patty Wetli, Invasive Carp Barrier, Chicago Shoreline Protection Big Winners in Army Corps Funding Bonanza, WTTW News: Politics (Jan. 19, 2022, 5:56 PM), []; Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, PL 117-58, Nov. 15, 2021, 135 Stat 429.

[31] Supra, note 29.

[32] Supra, note 29.

[33] IL H.B. 2667, 102nd Assembly,

[34] Bill Status of H.B. 2667, 102nd Assembly, Illinois General Assembly.

[35] May, supra, note 1; Copi, (last visited Nov. 5, 2022).