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A game theory based framework for assessing incentives for local area collaboration with an application to Scottish salmon farming

Murray, Alexander G.
Preventive veterinary medicine 2014 v.115 no.3-4 pp. 255-262
aquaculture systems, cost effectiveness, fish, fish culture, fish farms, game theory, managers, models, pathogens, purchasing, risk, trade
Movements of water that transport pathogens mean that in net-pen aquaculture diseases are often most effectively managed collaboratively among neighbours. Such area management is widely and explicitly applied for pathogen management in marine salmon farms. Effective area management requires the active support of farm managers and a simple game-theory based framework was developed to identify the conditions required under which collaboration is perceived to be in their own best interest. The model applied is based on area management as practiced for Scottish salmon farms, but its simplicity allows it to be generalised to other area-managed net-pen aquaculture systems. In this model managers choose between purchasing tested pathogen-free fish or cheaper, untested fish that might carry pathogens. Perceived pay-off depends on degree of confidence that neighbours will not buy untested fish, risking input of pathogens that spread between farms. For a given level of risk, confidence in neighbours is most important in control of moderate-impact moderate-probability diseases. Common low-impact diseases require high confidence since there is a high probability a neighbour will import, while testing for rare high-impact diseases may be cost-effective regardless of neighbours actions. In some cases testing may be beneficial at an area level, even if all individual farms are better off not testing. Higher confidence is required for areas with many farms and so focusing management on smaller, epidemiologically imperfect, areas may be more effective. The confidence required for collaboration can be enhanced by the development of formal agreements and the involvement of outside disinterested parties such as trade bodies or government.