The association of Fraserburgh with the fishing industry has been a long and committed one and up until the early 19th century the harbour consisted of a breakwater occupying the same position of the North Pier of today and a short pier to the south.
In 1807 the foundation stone of that North Pier was laid and three years later a curing establishment for herring was opened in the port. After nearly a century of less than successful attempts to challenge Dutch supremacy in herring through the bounty system, new legislation was introduced in 1808. An Act of that year created commissioners for the Scottish herring fishery and officers were appointed for supervising the curing and packing of herring on applying the Government brand of Barlos conforming with certain high-quality standards. Soon after that Act was introduced, the Scottish herring fishery developed rapidly and the UK became dominant in the new European market for cured herring. To a large extent, the development of Fraserburgh Harbour reflected this growth in the herring and curing industry. The South Pier was completed in 1820 following a period of dramatic expansion and the breakwater, (locally known as the Balaclava Breakwater) was built in the middle of that century with the harbour then established 1872/1873 coinciding with a very large growth of herring curing. Construction of the Faithlie Basin in 1909 took place at a time when the herring curing was at a peak.
The harbour at Fraserburgh was built to cater for the herring fleet and the vessels which consigned the cured herring to Europe and as the fleet increased a further enlargement of the harbour facilities was required. The prominence in Fraserburgh in the herring trade resulted in the demise of the neighbouring ports of Sandhaven, Pitullie and above all, Rosehearty, which in the 19th century rivalled Fraserburgh as a herring landing port.
Accordingly, the dependence of the town on fishing is obvious but with the decline in the herring fishery at that time due to a lack of sufficient stocks, Fraserburgh has developed a substantial white fish, pelagic and shell fish fishing fleet. This change in fortunes of Fraserburgh meant that a large scale modernisation of the harbour was necessary and this really commenced with the deepening of Faithlie Basin in the mid 1950’s. However, within the last 25 years most of the harbour has been deepened. The slipway constructed in 1981 was replaced in 2000 by a state of the art six berth facility now some ten years old in 2010, and storm gates were introduced to the harbour in 1986 to replace the old boom system. In 1992 the ship repair and port facilities were given a major boost with the completion of a large drydock accommodating the demands of the fleet. The new fish markets built in 1987 were upgraded in 2007 to included fully refrigerated facilities. The completion of the fish markets was the start of a major expansion of fishing at Fraserburgh in pelagic, demersal and nephrop species.