The New Zealand seafood industry has lost a titan with the death of Philip Vela.
“Philip Vela was an early pioneer in the development of the hoki, orange roughy, tuna and squid fisheries. He continued to be a major player and innovator in New Zealand fisheries – a business where only the strongest of the strong have survived over these past 40 years,” Deepwater Group chief executive George Clement said.
“As such, the New Zealand seafood industry owes Philip and his brother Peter a huge debt.
“Philip and Peter, both larger than life, prepared to risk all in developing New Zealand’s valuable deepwater fisheries.
“Their innovation and imagination led them to be the first to purchase large super-seiners to develop New Zealand’s skipjack tuna fishery in the 1970s. At the same time, they were the first to utilise trawlers with onboard factories to produce ‘once frozen’ fillet product; the first to export New Zealand fillet products to the British market; and the first to produce and export sea-frozen hoki fillets to the US market.”
Their father, Filip Vela, emigrated from Croatia on the Dalmatian coast to New Zealand in 1929 and, along with his two sons developed what has grown into one of the country’s largest privately owned fishing companies.
Philip and Sir Peter, who was knighted in 2013 for services to racing, were also instrumental in rescuing and developing the country’s thoroughbred racing industry.
The pair purchased Wrightson Bloodstock in 1997 and developed this into the internationally renowned New Zealand Bloodstock based at Karaka.
They won Caulfield and Melbourne cups with Ethereal.
“Philip had struggled with ill health for some time and we mourn his untimely passing,” Mr Clement said from Brussels where he is attending a seafood trade show.
“He was a huge presence, great fun to be with, always intellectually challenging and was amazingly well read – a singular man.”