I’d be willing to bet that if you went to any reputable restaurant in the country, especially a well-respected seafood establishment, you’d find a variety of delicious, highly sought-after fish entrees on the menu, such as blackened snapper, Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, and other ocean-dwelling delicacies. What you might not realize though, is that many of these tasty fish were once considered next to worthless and labeled as “trash fish.” However, after being renamed, rebranded, and receiving a strategic marketing makeover, these ugly, uncomplimentary creatures became some of the most expensive, high-profile fish on the market. They became the rock stars of the fish industry…to the point that some later became endangered due to illegal overharvesting and black-market sales. Let’s take a look at a few of them.
First, we have the Toothfish, a hideous, oily, bottom dweller that inhabits the cold waters of the Antarctic. To make this fish more attractive and marketable to American seafood buyers, its name was changed to the Chilean Sea Bass in 1977, and the rest is history! A fish once considered bycatch and discarded by fisherman, will now cost you around $25.00 a pound at the market and somewhere in the neighborhood of fifty bucks at any fine restaurant.
Next, consider the Slimehead. This fish, known for its extraordinary mucus canals, was rebranded as the Orange Roughy and now also demands a high price, which in turn has put the fish in great danger of depletion.
Goosefish anyone? This is another fish that had been tossed overboard for decades. After all, who wants to eat a creepy, demonic-looking, disproportioned critter with a huge, disgusting-looking mouth and big fat belly? Well, after it was discovered that the tail meat was a delicious delicacy, this fish was renamed the Monkfish and sales increased by 500 percent, again resulting in many challenges to regulate its harvest.
Yet another example of this successful seafood rebranding phenomenon was seen in the work of legendary Chef Paul Prudhomme, who, in the 1980’s, took the common redfish and renamed it the Blackened Snapper, which became a worldwide sensation!
And finally, we have the New England lobster, which was once considered a food staple only for the poor and downtrodden who couldn’t afford proper groceries and had to succumb to eating these overgrown crawdads just to survive. Once again, a little marketing magic and BAM! I don’t have to tell you how that story ended.
Yes indeed, it’s been proven time and time again that a marketing makeover is the magic that an otherwise unwanted fish needs to become a red-hot seller…no matter how ugly or initially unappealing. The Asian carp is such a fish that is no doubt in need of such a magical makeover and strategic marketing plan. Fisheries’ biologists and natural resource experts agree that the only productive solution for the long-term management of this invasive species, both to stop their increasing, wide-spread destruction, and to utilize this otherwise sinfully-wasted food source, is to promote the large-scale harvesting and utilization of these fish…by means of both commercial and recreational fishing. And, naturally, it all starts with a massive effort to educate and motivate the public. Unbeknownst to most Americans, the invasive silver and bighead Asian carp are two of the healthiest and most delicious fish in the world! In thousands of blind taste tests, they’ve been preferred almost unanimously over other popular eating fish.
Many Americans simply will not hear of eating Asian carp, however, primarily because the word “carp” is associated with the common carp, which is a totally different species of fish. The common carp is unfortunately yet another fish that has gained tremendous negative notoriety in the USA, while at the same time, being greatly esteemed and honored in European and Asian countries as both a prized sport fish and highly nutritious food source, which is why it was introduced to America in the first place!
Yes, for most folks here in the US, the silver and bighead carp have been found guilty by association. The general reaction to the notion of “eating carp” usually includes gag reflex sounds followed by a horrified look of disbelief and utter rejection! Whereas in Europe and Asia, the carp often live in manicured fishpond gardens and the waters of prestigious fishing clubs, in America, they’re thought of as the dwellers of feces-filled sewers and other bodies of water that are reminiscent of a toxic toilet bowl. The common carp of the US are regarded as filthy, bottom-feeding, sucker-mouthed “trash fish” that are good for little more than punching in the face and throwing in a ditch to rot.
That negative stereotype has unfortunately been immediately applied to the Asian silver and bighead species of carp by most of the general public, which is a monumental challenge to overcome and replace with a new, positive image. Not to mention, folks just plain hate this fish because of the destruction it’s caused and want nothing to do with it, much less eat it!
The bottom line, regarding the Asian carp, is that they’re not going away any time soon. They continue to multiply exponentially and destroy all in their path. And again, as natural resources experts agree, one of the only viable solutions to reducing the ecological chaos that these fish are causing, is to get busy harvesting and utilizing them. Word-of-mouth marketing about the positive qualities of these fish, and in-the-mouth experience of eating them are the two biggest means of getting the ball rolling to start making use of this incredibly delicious, nutritious, and massively wasted potential food source.
Just as with the lobster, Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, and all the other once-labeled “trash fish,” who after a marketing makeover, and finally making it to the dinner table, are now highly valued, demand respect…and a high price at the market…the Asian carp has the potential to follow suit; even more so perhaps, given their great taste and nutritional value.
If you’d like to find out more, check out my book, Eat the Enemy, Turning the Asian Carp Invasion into Health Delicious Cuisine. It’s a complete guidebook to catching and cooking the Asian carp, including 50 mouthwatering recipes. Click on the image below to order today.