Columns | Northwest Herald

Eye On Illinois: Asian carp by any other name is still a problematic fish

My dad likes to tell a joke about a Lutheran who moved into a heavily Catholic town. He got along famously with his new neighbors until Friday, when the smell of grilled beef wafted through the community as everyone else ate fish.

After a few weeks, the town elders convinced the new resident to convert. The priest sprinkled holy water and pronounced, “You were born a Lutheran, you were raised a Lutheran, but today you are a Catholic.”

But the next Friday, the familiar smells of sirloin came from the man’s yard. As his neighbors approached to ask for clarity, they watched as the man dashed seasoning on the beef and said, “You were born an Angus, you were raised an Angus, but today you are a walleye.”

The punchline rattled in my brain this week watching the Department of Natural Resources trying to “rebrand” the invasive Asian carp by branding four strains of the species as Copi and encouraging consumption in order to thin it out of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers, hopefully keeping it from attacking the Great Lakes ecosystem.

“Copi is more savory than tilapia, cleaner tasting than catfish and firmer than cod,” said chef Brian Jupiter, winner of the “Chopped” TV show. “It’s the perfect canvas for creativity – pan-fried, steamed, broiled, baked, roasted or grilled.”

It’s a familiar playbook to anyone who knows orange roughy used to be slimehead. The popular Chilean sea bass was known as the Patagonian toothfish until a late 1970s marketing push, an effort that worked almost too well (it now is trending toward being endangered). But Asian carp so prodigiously procreate that, even as the most commonly eaten freshwater fish worldwide, it will take more than an Illinois name change to reverse this potentially damaging local trend.

If you’re on board with the effort, lean more at

A MEANINGFUL SENTENCE? Former state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, is facing a one-year prison sentence earned for pleading guilty to embezzlement. According to Capitol News Illinois, Cullerton took salary and benefits from a union for which he did little or no work.

Some might suggest a lawmaker earning any prison time for corruption signals the others to fly straight. But Cullerton shed 39 counts from his August 2019 indictment and didn’t have to leave the Senate until March. Prosecutors asked for 18 months, not 12. If he pays back $223,828, he can keep his home.

Politicians have committed far worse crimes against the state. He’s 52, and it’s unclear if the conviction will cost him his warehouse job. Aside from the direct effects on Cullerton’s life, his punishment doesn’t seem to write the type of cautionary tale that ethics-minded voters might have hoped.

• Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media. Follow him on Twitter @sth749. He can be reached at

Scott Holland

Scott T. Holland

Scott T. Holland writes about state government issues for Shaw Media Illinois. Follow him on Twitter at @sth749. He can be reached at