The small village of Leigh in the North Island of New Zealand boasts a population of about 750 people and has become one of the most productive fishing villages in New Zealand thanks to its abundance of Snapper and dedicated fishermen.
Even though the village and parent company is spelled “Leigh”, it was Leigh Fisheries’ Asian clientele that adopted the “Lee” spelling because it was most familiar to them. Leigh Fisheries decided to adopt this spelling and keep it as the brand for its subsidiaries. It’s now the accepted spelling for all Lee Fish subsidiaries while the parent company remains ‘Leigh Fisheries’ located in the town of Leigh.
The town’s name is believed to come from a travelling missionary named Reverend Samuel Leigh, but this bit of history is hotly debated after a pint or two in the local taverns.
Back in the 1950’s a handful of men got together with an idea to sell the superior quality fish caught from day boats to the consumer. The same philosophy continues some 60 odd years later. Today some of the original families like the Matheson, Aitken, Wyatt and Clarke’s that started the industry out of Leigh are still shareholders in Leigh Fisheries.
Leigh Fisheries itself was founded in 1956 with its factory just minutes away from the Leigh wharf which cuts down the time between catch and market. Dermot Cunningham an Irishman who sailed over from Ireland on his seine boat as a young man is now the majority shareholder and has been involved with the fisheries for roughly 35 years. Dermot was instrumental in developing the Japanese market which took the quality to another level when the Japanese introduced to fishermen the spiking of the fish which is known as “Ike-Jimi”.
Leigh Fisheries found themselves having to diversify from their snapper exports mainly to Japan because of the introduction of their own Japanese farmed snapper. Leigh Fisheries is now involved in all inshore and pelagic fresh fish species including Spiny Lobsters which are flown live predominantly to China.
While Leigh Fisheries is owned by numerous private shareholders, it conducts its business with a family feel to it. This is because Leigh Fisheries recognizes that it takes a huge effort from the fisherman, factory staff and marketing subsidiaries to make Leigh Fisheries one of the “standout” fresh fish producers in New Zealand.
Today Leigh Fisheries supplies close to 8,000,000lbs of high quality fresh fish annually to numerous countries around the world, a far cry from the 500lbs per week it used to supply local clubs and hotels in the 1950’s.
Greg Bishop who as a young man became involved in the fishing industry with the Sanford and then set up chilled seafood exports for Fletcher Fishing in the early eighties became the CEO of Leigh Fisheries back in 1995. Greg quickly realized that in order to secure the markets he needed to form marketing partnerships and so in 1998 he approached Daniel Christen in Zurich Switzerland who was the fish procurement manager for Dorig and Brandl and Lee Fish Europe was founded.
After Lee Fish Europe’s success in Europe, Greg Bishop then approached Richard Adlem who at the time was working for New Zealand Seafood Marketing. In March 2001 Lee Fish USA was established to supply Leigh Fisheries fresh fish to the markets throughout North America.
It didn’t take long for both subsidiaries to lead the way in the marketing of fresh fish from New Zealand and today they set the bench mark in terms of quality and volumes as the “Lee Brand” is further recognized for its “Fresh, Wild & Natural” presence.
Lee Fish USA strategically located themselves within a few miles of the Los Angeles airport (LAX) so that they can recover their fresh seafood shipments from the airlines within hours upon arrival and redirect them to the local market or other States on the same day they arrived. This clearly gives Lee Fish USA an advantage as they can typically deliver fish to the wholesaler or end-user within 24 – 36 hours of the fish coming out of the water in New Zealand.
Richard Adlem, CEO of Lee Fish USA, says the concept is easy, “We want to deliver the highest quality fresh fish to the most discriminating clients throughout North America. Of course, this can only be possible because of our dedicated staff at Lee Fish USA with six warehouse personnel meticulously overseeing all the inbounds and shipments to the customers and six highly dedicated sales and administrative staff who work tirelessly to ensure our customers are happy”.
In 2010 Lee Fish Asia which is based out of Singapore was founded with Sam Buck who previously worked for Lee Fish USA heading up the team.
President and CEO
Richard was born and raised in Empangeni, South Africa. He studied Civil Engineering in Durban. In 1985, Richard travelled abroad to play Rugby for the Harlequins in Hawaii (where he met Phil Hall and was introduced to the seafood industry) and Manly in Australia. In 1989, Richard moved to Los Angeles to start working at New Zealand Seafood Marketing as a Sales Associate. In 2001, he left New Zealand Seafood to start Lee Fish USA, a subsidiary of Leigh Fisheries New Zealand. In 2004, Richard became a U.S. citizen. He is married and an avid sportsman. He’s a passionate golfer and still plays rugby with a senior rugby group which, once a year, travels internationally to compete.
Carl was born in Whangarei, New Zealand but spent most of his childhood in Western Samoa. Returning to his native New Zealand he attended Nelson College and then moved to Auckland to study Business Management at Unitec.
Carl comes from a family who has been involved in exporting Tuna and other fish species from Western Samoa for many years. The one thing he values most about Lee Fish USA is being able to promote a more sustainable approach to the fishing industry. He is also an avid outdoorsman and fisherman and has lived most his life around the ocean and offshore game fishing. Carl moved to Los Angeles in 2004 and lives in Torrance with his wife and daughter.
Loreli was born in the Philippines and majored in Business Management at St. Scholastica’s College in Manila. After graduating, Loreli worked at Isuzu Automotive Dealership Inc. in Manila, Philippines as a Human Resources Assistant at the Executive Compensation Benefit Department. In 2010, Loreli moved to Los Angeles with her family and worked as a part-time office assistant to the Aguiluz Law Corporation before joining Lee Fish USA.