Seafood industry mourns death of Les Hodgson, former NFI chairman and Marco Sales co-owner

Published on
August 10, 2016

Les Hodgson, former NFI chairman, expert on all aspects of the shrimp trade, entrepreneurial founder of Marco Sales and celebrated conservationist, died in the early morning of Monday, 8 August at age 68. 

The exact cause of death is not known, but Hodgson’s health had been declining recently, according to his brother and Marco Sales co-founder Larry Hodgson.

“He had been in poor health for some time, but it’s still a little bit surprising he passed away when he did,” Larry Hodgson said.

Friends and colleagues of Les Hodgson remembered him as a hard-working, innovative and dedicated leader. 

“He was fun, smart, energetic and held crystal-clear ideals and beliefs that he sustained for his entire life,” said GAA Executive Director Wally Stevens, who worked with Hodgson at the now-defunct Booth Fisheries in the 1970s and 1980s. 

According to Larry Hodgson, his brother got his start in the seafood business as a teenager, after his father moved the family from Canada, where he had been working for Booth Fisheries, to Brownsville, Texas to head up the company’s shrimp division. 

“Les spent his summers in high school working in various areas of the shrimp industry. He spent one summer working in sales with [seafood import company] Harrison Pierce in New York, and one summer shrimping in the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia,” Larry Hodgson said. “Those early years gave him such good experience in lots of phases of the shrimp industry, and that helped as he moved on in understanding exactly how every aspect of the business worked.”

After college and a stint in the U.S. Army, Les Hodgson went to work with Wally Stevens at Booth Fisheries and soon found himself running the company’s operations in Nicaragua.

“He did a great job there,” Stevens said. “He was a hands-on guy, never giving up on a problem. Through a lot of trial and error, and lots of sweat equity, he got a lot done and was able to make a name for himself.”

After his time in Nicaragua, Les Hodgson returned to Brownsville, Texas and put time into developing the science of shrimp farming, according to Stevens.

“He was key in the development of shrimp farming in the Texas area, in particular how to harvest the shrimp from ponds and keep them at the right temperatures so they were best preserved,” Stevens said. “He was innovative, and I think a lot of that came from his natural talent for knowing how to get things done the right way.”

In 1977, Les and Larry Hodgson co-founded Marco Sales in Brownsville, which marketed wild-caught shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico under its Texas Gold label. The company also was involved with processing plants in Mexico doing shrimp peeling, deveining  and individual quick-freezing (IQF) for other large American shrimp retailers and distributors.

Rick Martin, the founder of Meridian Products and executive director of Red Chamber Group, one of the largest seafood suppliers in North America, recalled Les Hodgson as an honorable competitor in his business dealings.

“Even though we primarily knew each other competing against each other, I always had a lot of respect for him. He was a man with integrity. He always put out a good product and was a man of his word,” Martin said. “You hate to lose somebody like that from the industry.”

In 1995, Hodgson was named chairman of the National Fisheries Institute, where Martin said he brought a fresh perspective and an effective leadership style.

“Two areas I think he really tried to exert influence on were representing the viewpoint from the smaller companies and also to represent the interests of the Gulf shrimp fishery,” Martin said.

Following his one-year term at NFI, Hodgson turned his attention to the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, a rare species of turtle native to the Gulf of Mexico that was sometimes caught in shrimping nets. After working to get the industry to adopt universal turtle excluder devices, Hodgson begin working in both the United States and in Mexico, rallying government and nonprofit attention to the cause of protecting the species, leading to more official protections of the critically endangered species.

In 1997, he worked with Ocean Trust, a nonprofit research and education foundation, to establish a research and preservation camp at Tepehaujes, Mexico, the world’s second-largest Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nesting beach, raising the money needed for the project, purchasing the building materials himself and donating labor from his company.

For his efforts, he was named Ocean Trust’s Volunteer of the Year, was a recipient of NOAA’s Walter B. Jones Memorial in 1999 and NOAA Excellence Awards for Coastal and Ocean Resource Management. Until recently, he continued to volunteer his own time and money to personally patrol beaches to find and protect turtle nests from poaching during nesting seasons. 

“Lots of us point out the problems of the world, but damn few get involved in solving those problems,” Stevens said. “He made a difference, never seeking publicity for doing it – he just did it. If there was a model of behavior that we should all want to emulate, it would be how Les comported himself.”

In a statement, NFI President John Connelly said Les Hodgson was in the organization’s “thoughts and prayers.”

“In October of 1995 the National Fisheries Institute celebrated its 50th Anniversary under the leadership of Chairman Les Hodgson, Connelly said. “Today the seafood community mourns his passing and celebrates his leadership as we remember a man whose focus on HACCP and fisheries management was as important then as it is today. In addition, his commitment to the protection of turtle populations was unmatched.”

Larry Hodgson, who will run Marco Sales following his brother’s death, said Les Hodgson continued to work every day at Marco Sales until his passing. He asks that donations be made to Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas in support of their ongoing preservation work with Kemp Ridley turtles.

Seafood industry mourns death of Les Hodgson, former NFI chairman and Marco Sales co-owner

Les Hodgson, former NFI chairman, expert on all aspects of the shrimp trade, entrepreneurial founder of Marco Sales and celebrated conservationist, died early Monday morning at age 68.

The exact cause of death is still not known, but Hodgson’s health had been declining recently, according to his brother and Marco Sales co-founder Larry Hodgson.

“He had been in poor health for some time, but it’s still a little bit surprising he passes away when he did,” Larry Hodgson said.

Friends and colleagues of Les Hodgson remembered him as a hard-working, innovative and dedicated leader.

“We was fun, smart, energetic and held crystal-clear ideals and beliefs that he sustained for his entire life,” GAA Executive Director Wally Stevens, who worked with Hodgson at the now-defunct Booth Fisheries in the 1970s and 1980s.

According to Larry Hodgson, his brother got his start in the seafood business as a teenager, after his father moved the family from Canada, where he had been working for Booth Fisheries, to Brownsville, Texas to head up the company’s shrimp division.

“Les spent his summers in high school working in various area of the shrimp industry. He spent one summer working in sales with [seafood import company] Harrison Pierce in New York, and one summer shrimping in the Gulf of Carpentaria in Australia,” Larry Hodgson said. “Those early years gave him such good experience in lots of phases of the shrimp industry, and that helped as he moved on in understanding exactly how the every aspect of the business worked.”

After college and a stint in the U.S. Army, Les Hodgson went to work with Wally Stevens at Booth Fisheries and soon found himself running the company’s operations in Nicaragua.

“He did a great job there,” Stevens said. “He was a hands-on guy, never giving up on a problem. Through a lot of trial and error, and lots of sweat equity, he got a lot done and was able to make a name for himself.”

After his time in Nicaragua, Les Hodgson returned to Brownsville, Texas and put time into developing the science of shrimp farming, according to Stevens.

“He was key in the development of shrimp farming in the Texas area, in particular how to harvest the shrimp from ponds and keep them at the right temperatures so they were best preserved,” Stevens said. “He was innovative, and I think a lot of that came from his natural talent for knowing how to get things done the right way.”

In 1977, Les and Larry Hodgson co-founded Marco Sales in Brownsville, which marketed wild-caught shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico under its Texas Gold label. The company also was involved with processing plants in Mexico doing shrimp peeling, deveining  and individual quick-freezing (IQF) for other large American shrimp retailers and distributors.

Rick Martin, the founder of Meridian Products and executive director of Red Chamber Group, one of the largest seafood suppliers in North America, recalled Les Hodgson as an honorable competitor in his business dealings.

“Even though we primarily knew each other competing against each other, I always had a lot of respect for him. He was a man with integrity. He always put out a good product and was a man of his word,” Martin said. “You hate to lose somebody like that from the industry.”

Martin credited Les Hodgson for originating the idea of onboard shrimp packing and creating and implementing an effective system of shrimp-packing in baskets on board his entire fleet.

“That was something new, and it turned out a better product,” Martin said.

In 1995, Hodgson was named chairman of the National Fisheries Institute, where Martin said he brought a fresh perspective and an effective leadership style.

“Two areas I think he really tried to exert influence on were representing the viewpoint from the smaller companies and also to represent the interests of the Gulf shrimp fishery,” Martin said.

Following his one-year term at NFI, Hodgson turned his attention to the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle, a rare species of turtle native to the Gulf of Mexico that was sometimes caught in shrimping nets. After working to get the industry to adopt universal turtle excluder devices, Hodgson begin working in both the United States and in Mexico, rallying government and nonprofit attention to the cause of protecting the species, leading to more official protections of the critically endangered species.

In 1997, he worked with Ocean Trust, a nonprofit research and education foundation, to establish a research and preservation camp at Tepehaujes, Mexico the world’s second-largest Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle nesting beach, raising the money needed for the project, purchasing the building materials himself and donating labor from his company.

For his efforts, he was named Ocean Trust’s Volunteer of the Year, was a recipient of NOAA’s Walter B. Jones Memorial in 1999 and NOAA Excellence Awards for Coastal and Ocean Resource Management.Until recently, he continued to volunteer his own time and money to personally patrol beaches to find and protect turtle nests from poaching during nesting seasons.

“Lots of us point out the problems of the world, but damn few get involved in solving those problems,” Stevens said. “He made a difference, never seeking publicity for doing it – he just did it. If there was a model of behavior that we should all want to emulate, it would be how Les comported himself.”

In a statement, NFI President John Connelly said Les Hodgson was in the organization’s “thoughts and prayers.”

“In October of 1995 the National Fisheries Institute celebrated its 50th Anniversary under the leadership of Chairman Les Hodgson, Connelly said. “Today the seafood community mourns his passing and celebrates his leadership as we remember a man whose focus on HACCP and fisheries management was as important then as it is today. In addition, his commitment to the protection of turtle populations was unmatched.”

Larry Hodgson, who will run Marco Sales following his brother’s death, said Les Hodgson continued to work every day at Marco Sales until his passing. He asks that donations be made to Gladys Porter Zoo in Brownsville, Texas in support of their ongoing preservation work with Kemp Ridley turtles.

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