Animal rights activists on Friday spent $240 to buy seven live lobsters from a suburban Maryland restaurant and fly them to a new home off the coast of Maine.

Cam McQueen of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals picked up the lobsters from the House of Chinese Gourmet in Rockville, Md., about 10 a.m., took them to Washington National Airport and boarded a flight to Portland, Maine, a PETA official said.Members of the U.S. Coast Guard then were expected to escort her and the lobsters to a boat station to release the creatures into their new ocean home, PETA spokeswoman Victoria Thomas said.

The House of Chinese Gourmet is popular among local vegetarians, who were offended when owner Jack Sun introduced the lobster tank about a month ago, Thomas said.

"All of the sudden they put up a 125-gallon tank with live lobsters, and there was a big outcry," she said. "All their vegetarian clientele got very upset."

Sun agreed to get rid of the lobster tank, Thomas said, provided the animal activists bought the lobsters and arranged for their freedom. The total cost of the lobster rescue was $240 - $40 for the lobsters and $200 for the flight. The Coast Guard donated its services.

Maine is noted for its prime lobster growing areas.

"The water is cooler, and lobsters prefer that," Thomas said.

Thomas said there were no plans to free lobsters waiting to be entrees in other restaurant tanks in the Washington metropolitan area.

"We particularly targeted that restaurant because we knew they had a big vegetarian clientele," she said.