SEABROOK — When settlers initially made their homes on New Hampshire shores hundreds of years ago, fishing along with farming became the first industries that sustained the coastal communities. 

 

Today, that once-healthy fishing industry could soon become a thing of the past. Future generations may have to learn of those who went down to the sea in ships from history books, for the last round of federal regulations may leave the Granite State’s small-boat, inshore fishing fleet forever beached.

 

The peak of the modern commercial fleet in New Hampshire was the late ’80s and early ’90s, with Seabrook’s Yankee Fisherman’s Cooperative servicing about 40 boats from Seabrook, Hampton and Rye, according to manager Peter Kendall. The Portsmouth Fisherman’s Cooperative worked with another 20 or so boats, he added. 

 

That was after the passage of the landmark federal Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act of 1976, but before the onset of heavy federal regulations restricting commercial fishermen’s harvests. Those heavy restrictions began in 1994, Kendall said, and there’s been no letup. 

 

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