NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- SeaWorld Entertainment's (SEAS) new CEO Joel Manby said at the company's annual shareholder meeting on Wednesday that releasing the theme park company's performing killer whales (orcas) to open ocean pens would ultimately kill the ocean's top predator, The New York Post reports.
SeaWorld has been facing an onslaught of criticism regarding its practice of keeping killer whales in human care since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which attributes whale on human aggression to prolonged captivity in small concrete tanks.
Four people have been killed by captive orcas since the early 1990's.
"More than 80% of our whales were born in our care, and sea pens would be a poor choice for them," Manby said at the meeting, The Post noted.
"Uncontrollable exposure to pollution, ocean debris and life-threatening pathogens in ocean waters are just a few of the factors that make sea pens an unhealthy living environment for any of our animals," Manby added.
Manby's statement was in response to a question regarding SeaWorld's scientific ability to place its orcas in sea sanctuaries.
Placing killer whales that were once held in captivity into an open sea sanctuary has been done in the past. Keiko, the much-beloved star of the film "Free Willy" was released into a sea pen, The Post noted. The orca lived for several years in the wild, while also under human observation and care.
Last summer SeaWorld announced plans to double the size of its killer whale tanks beginning with its facility in San Diego, with Orlando and San Antonio to follow.