From ants to fishing vessels: a simple model for herding and exploitation of finite resources


We analyse the dynamics of fishing vessels with different home ports in an area where these vessels, in choosing where to fish, are influenced by their own experience in the past and by their current observation of the locations of other vessels in the fleet. Empirical data from the boats near Ancona and Pescara shows stylized statistical properties that are reminiscent of Kirman and Föllmer’s ant recruitment model, although with two ant colonies represented by the two ports. From the point of view of a fisherman, the two fishing areas are not equally attractive, and he tends to prefer the one closer to where he is based. This piece of evidence led us to extend the original ants model to a situation with two asymmetric zones and finite resources.

We show that, in the mean-field regime, our model exhibits the same properties as the empirical data. We obtain a phase diagram that separates high and low herding regimes, but also fish population extinction. Our analysis has interesting policy implications for the ecology of fishing areas. It also suggests that herding behaviour here, just as in financial markets, will lead to significant fluctuations in the amount of fish landed, as the boat concentration on one area at a given point in time will diminish the overall catch, such loss not being compensated by the reproduction of fish in the other area. In other terms, individually rational behaviour will not lead to collectively optimal results.

J. Moran, A. Fosset, A. Kirman, M. Benzaquen, From ants to fishing vessels: a simple model for herding and exploitation of finite resources, Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control 129 (2021) 104169