This game desk was developed within a project financed by the Cluster of Excellence „Future Ocean“ at Kiel University for their special exhibition in the German Museum in Munich. The underlying idea was to develop an appealing device to illustrate the basic problem of fisheries to the public. The project brought together expertise from science, programming and design to fulfill this.


The primary goal of this computer game is to demonstrate the common pool problem to the interested public. 4 players have the target to achieve as much points as possible by catching fish. All players rely on the same fish stock and therefore compete for the resource, as given in common pool resources. The game is parameterized in a way that the fish stock will be depleted very soon, if all players catch as much as they can. Only by communicating and sticking to common rules, a sustainable, higher overall catch can be reached in the game.
The next step will be to use this spatially resolving model set-up for experimental economic research and to address questions of marine protected areas.


According to FAO (2007) estimates, about one quarter of all economically valuable marine fish stocks are overfished, depleted, or recovering from depletion; most of the remaining fish stocks are fully exploited and have no room for further expansion. The economic reason for the phenomenon of overfishing is the lack of appropriately defined property rights. Thus, a major problem of unsustainable harvest of fish is based on what is called „tragedy of the commons“ or a “common pool problem”. Despite the fact that most fisheries look somehow managed, individual fishers have still the incentive to take as much fish out of the water as they can.
To address these challenges, either the control of rules has to be strengthened or, much better, the incentive for the fisher has to change. The latter is already true for a lot of small fishing communities, e.g. on Pacific island states, and where clear use rights have been established, e.g. territorial use rights in Chile.
The potential introduction of property rights in European fisheries is one of the major points of discussion when talking about the revision of the European Common Fisheries Policy.