Aberdeen is a very old fishing town. During Medieval times salmon was caught. It was cured in salt and then sent to England and Europe. It made a lot of money for the town. Salmon is still caught in the Rivers Dee and Don today. A plan of the River Don from 1795 shows salmon fishing. This area was called the Nether Don Salmon Fishings.
Footdee was the old fishing village at Aberdeen. The men there caught white fish like cod, ling and haddock. They were not always very well behaved. They often got into trouble with the Town Council who made the rules of the town. They sold their fish on Sundays. This was not allowed and they were often punished. Sometimes they were tied to poles on the beach. They were left there until the high tide began to wash over them. In 1501, '7 men in their seven boats' were fined for selling their fish at the shore.
At one time there were also whaling ships at Aberdeen. There is a sad story about one that sank. The whale fishing ship 'Oscar' left Aberdeen on Tuesday 1 April 1813. Soon after it left, a terrible storm broke out. The Oscar could not get back to safety in the harbour and was washed up on the rocks. People on the shore were unable to reach the crew to help. A total of 52 men were drowned.
In 1882 a new type of boat began to appear. This was the steam trawler. The first one to work from Aberdeen was called the Toiler. It was very successful and caught lots of fish. Soon there were hundreds of steam trawlers in the harbour. These caught white fish like cod and haddock by trawling with big nets. There was also a lot of herring caught. Many steam boats fished from Aberdeen.
Painting by Artist Peter Anson of steam trawler leaving Aberdeen, around 1920
More and more fishing boats began to use Aberdeen Harbour and soon it was not big enough. Work was done to make more room for the boats. In 1889 a new fish market was opened at the Albert Basin. The fish was sold here and then trains took the fish to London and other cities. Soon Aberdeen was the biggest fishing port in Britain.
Today there is not so much fishing. There are still a lot of boats and ships though. Most of these are supply and exploration boats for the oil industry. The harbour is busy with these big boats. If you visit the Maritime Museum in Aberdeen you can look out of the window and see all the activity that is going on.