The LEE FISH Story
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. It’s now the accepted spelling for all Lee Fish subsidiaries while the parent company remains ‘Leigh Fisheries’ located in the town of Leigh in Newzealand
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 and a Fish & Chips in the local pub.
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 66 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 such as John Dory Snapper Tarakihi Red Gurnards and pelagic fresh fish species including Spiny Lobsters
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.