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Aquarium Shouldn’t Serve Fish, PETA Says

Times Staff Writer

An animal rights group wants the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach to gut its cafeteria menu of fish and seafood, arguing that “serving fish at an aquarium is like serving poodle burgers at a dog show.”

Like Lilo in the animated “Lilo and Stitch,” who refused to make a tuna sandwich for her friend, Pudge, a fish, because it would be “an abomination,” the head of the Fish Empathy Project for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said serving fish at an aquarium just isn’t right. “An institution with a mission that includes teaching people to respect and appreciate marine animals certainly shouldn’t serve fish in its cafeteria,” Karin Robertson wrote last week in a letter to Jerry Schabel, the aquarium’s chairman and chief executive.

For the record:

12:00 a.m. July 16, 2005 For The Record
Los Angeles Times Saturday July 16, 2005 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 45 words Type of Material: Correction
Aquarium executive -- An article in the June 28 California section about an animal rights group’s effort to get the Aquarium of the Pacific to remove fish from its menu referred to Jerry Schabel, the aquarium’s chairman and chief executive, as “she” instead of “he.”

Robertson, who runs a website called fishinghurts.com, said recent studies have showed that fish are “intelligent, sensitive and interesting animals.”

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“Fish are far more intelligent than previously thought, and in some respects their cognitive abilities surpass those of dogs and some nonhuman primates,” she wrote to Schabel. “The treatment of both commercially caught fish and fish from fish farms would warrant cruelty-to-animals charges in your state if animals we are more familiar with, like dogs and cats, were treated as badly.”

Aquarium officials say they won’t ban from their kitchens sustainable seafood, such as tilapia, farmed clams and wild-caught Alaskan salmon, that can be replenished through such means as fish farms. The facility said it co-sponsors a Seafood Watch program with the Monterey Bay Aquarium designed to educate the public about the types of fish that are safe to eat and those to avoid because they are endangered or are caught using methods harmful to other sea creatures.

“Like PETA, we are committed to animals and their conservation, and we appreciate that commitment,” Schabel said in a statement Monday. She said some people coming to the aquarium “may want to eat seafood. Rather than eat seafood from unsustainable sources, we stand committed to offering them the alternative of eating only sustainable or environmentally friendly seafood.”

The 1.25 million people who visit the aquarium each year can choose from an array of seafood dishes, including clam chowder, rainbow trout and catfish, as well as tilapia and salmon, said spokeswoman Marilyn Padilla.

Despite the aquarium’s denying her request, Robertson said she will send letters to other aquariums around the country to point out what she calls the hypocrisy of their menus.

“They should be serving exclusively vegetarian food, not just for the health of their patrons but for the animals they contend to be supporting,” she said Monday. “They don’t sell elephant burgers at the zoo, and they shouldn’t be selling fish at aquariums.”


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