Marine Research Findings of the VECTORS Project

This website provides access to the research results of the VECTORS project, which can be used to support marine management decisions, policies and governance as well as future research and investment. VECTORS was a large scale project that brought together more than 200 expert researchers from 16 different countries. It examined the significant changes taking place in European seas, their causes, and the impacts they will have on society.

Farsightedness, changing stock location and the stability of international fisheries agreements

This study concerns the extent to which international fisheries agreements are vulnerable to changes in the location of fish stocks. Fish stocks are likely to expand their range or to shift location due to climate change. Changes in the location will likely affect how much a given country will wish to catch. They may therefore no longer be willing to cooperate in catch agreements. This research employs game theory and coalition theory to explore the possibility that "farsightedness" can improve the stability of fisheries agreements as stock location changes. Farsightedness allows countries to punish those who leave an agreement by leaving the agreement also. The research explores whether this punishment is sufficient to ensure the stability of the fisheries agreement as stock location changes.


We find that farsightedness increases the stability of agreements as stock location changes. However, farsightedness also increases the sensitivity of the agreement to changes in stock location. Encouraging countries to make farsighted decisions is thus beneficial in general, but may lead to more frequent changes in the choice to cooperate.

The method of this study was to create a game theoretic coalition model of fisheries agreements based on the Gordon-Shaefer model which is adapted to allow for changing stock location. We construct a novel and pragmatic farsightedness concept. Farsightedness means that if a country stops cooperating, other countries also have the option to stop cooperating. We also employ a "shortsighted" concept for comparison. Shortsighted players must stay cooperating even if another country stops cooperating. We identify the effects of farsightedness by comparing the stability of far- and shortsightendess. We do so in a sensitivity analysis to analyse the effects of changing stock location on stability in 3 and 4 country games as examples.

In the 3 country game, using shortsightedness we can expect agreements to be stable to changes in stock for 25% of cases. Using farsightedness, agreements are stable in 39% of cases. These results are interpreted in terms of their relative and not absolute magnitudes. In 4 country game, the increased sensitivity of stability to changing stock location becomes apparent. In this case, farsightedness leads to more stability as stock location changes in general, but the choices to join or leave agreements are made more frequently in response to changes in stock location.

Relevance for Policy:
  • Common Fisheries Policy
  • Marine Strategy Framework Directive

Lead Author:

Adam N. Walker
Wageningen University (WU)
Date of research: October 2014

Related articles:

Risk of stock collapse and the Great Fish Pact

Changes on stocks and management in saithe fishery 

Ecology - Economy interactions in fisheries 

Climate change: flatfish and shrimp fisheries 

Modelling fishing fleets competing for quota

Modelling fishing fleets competing for space

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 266445
© Vectors 2015. Coordinated by Plymouth Marine Laboratory.