In the 16th century, Aberporth was a subsidiary landing point for the port of Cardigan. Boats, nets and salt for preserving were brought in from Ireland. It developed rapidly in the late 17th and early 18th centuries as local people began to take part in the maritime trade. It became a very active port with the northernmost of the two beaches extending into the river valley and provided a safe anchorage. Limekilns, coalyards and warehouses were built on its south shore.
Aberporth developed into one of the main centres of the herring fishing industry in Wales. Drifting and netting were both employed and at one time at least 20 full time herring smacks, a type of traditional fishing boat went to sea regularly. The industry persisted until the beginning of the First World War when fish stocks declined. Crab and lobster fishing continues on a small scale to this day.