ATLANTA - Guests, from the governor down, gushed. But Karin Robertson, the founder of the Fish Empathy Project from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, isn't wild about the Georgia Aquarium, which officially opens today.
Ms. Robertson and "Freeda Fish" were among a handful of protesters who gathered not far from the aquarium to protest it. They were asked by security to leave a spot on the sidewalk beside the building.
"Most people don't realize that those animals were ripped out of the wild, and they're going to have stressed, short life in the aquarium," Ms. Robertson said. "If aquariums were really interested in conservation, they'd be working on legislation to end the wholesale slaughter of fish in the ocean. ... But they're taking some of the few animals who have survived and are thriving in the ocean and putting them in the equivalent of a bathtub."
Aquarium founder Bernie Marcus said during a ribbon-cutting ceremony last week that most of the fish come from agriculture, not from the wild.
Ms. Robertson and other protesters gathered Monday and Tuesday to hold signs that carried messages such as "Fish in Tanks? No Thanks!" For today's grand opening, the group was planning for a topless mermaid sitting in a cage holding a "strategically placed sign" with the message "Life Sentence, No Parole."
Ray Davis, the aquarium's vice president of zoological operations, said an up-close look at the animals might make people think harder before they do something harmful to the aquatic environment. He also pointed to the rescue of two beluga whales from poor conditions at a Mexico City amusement park as an example of the good the aquarium can do.