A Fish Story With Some Bite

It's a menu to whet the appetite of any seafood connoisseur: Maine crab cakes, grilled yellowfin tuna, savory clam chowder, and breaded haddock.

There's just one problem for some customers: It's all being served at the New England Aquarium.

Some animal rights activists say serving fish at the aquarium, which prides itself on marine conservation, sends a mixed message.

The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which wants the aquarium to adopt a vegetarian menu with such soybean items as "Not-Dogs" and "Tu-No," plans a protest this week at the aquarium.

"How can you display fish that are so beautiful, then turn around and eat them?" asked Christine Dorchak, an animal rights activist in Boston.

"We don't serve our exhibits," said Sue Knapp, a spokeswoman for the aquarium, which sits on the edge of Boston Harbor. "We want to foster an appreciation for the aquatic world. Eating seafood can be a part of that."

And there's another argument: Aquarium residents eat far more fish than their two-legged visitors.

"We feed our marine mammals 650 pounds of fish per day. We use about 20 pounds per day in the restaurant," said Deb Fassnacht, senior vice president at Chicago's Shedd Aquarium, where seafood lovers can savor Chilean sea bass topped with grape sauce or feast on salmon with pasta.

At SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, patrons can sample various seafood plates at the park's eight dining facilities. "We don't see it as a conflict of interest," SeaWorld spokeswoman Kjerstin Dillon said.

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The New England Aquarium says it has no plans to remove marine species from its menu. But it says it will not serve species such as swordfish, whose stocks are depleted.

"If eating seafood at the aquarium's restaurant gets people talking about where fish comes from and the types of fish that are overfished, then that's a good thing," Knapp said.

Hot dogs, it turns out, are the top seller at the aquarium's Harbor Cafe, but other favorites are fish sandwiches, fish nuggets and that New England classic - chowder.

The night menu, reserved for special functions, is more upscale, with grilled shrimp, yellowfin tuna, crab cakes, Dover sole and salmon among the offerings.

"They really shouldn't be serving fish here if they're talking about preservation," said Carolyn Morgis, a mother from Hamden, Connecticut, who visited the aquarium recently with her four children. "We got the nachos."

"We've learned about how some of the fish are endangered here," said another visitor, 11-year-old Kaitlyn Morgis of Connecticut. "But then they, like, serve them. That's bad."

But others said not serving seafood in the New ngland Aquarium would ruin the New England experience.

"New England is about seafood," said Patti Dion, a New England native who lives in El Paso, Texas. "I love seafood on any menu, even if it's here."

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