Transboundary marine protected areas

Christopher Costello, Renato Molina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Countries exploiting transboundary natural resources face strong incentives to over-exploit. This basic economic insight has been validated empirically where numerous resources such as water, forests, game, and fisheries are found to be in worse condition than those completely contained in single nations. Attempts to solve this challenge through cross-country cooperation have been largely unsuccessful because competitive extraction is often more attractive than adhering to cooperative agreements. Focusing on the fishery, we explore the game-theoretic economics of an alternative to cooperative arrangements, called a transboundary marine protected area (TMPA), which straddles both countries’ waters. We derive the conditions under which it can improve profits and stock biomass, even in the presence of individually-rational non-cooperation across countries. Strikingly, we find that well-designed TMPAs have the potential to completely overcome non-cooperation across countries; this result is strongest for low growth rate species. A TMPA can earn higher harvest benefits for both countries, increase stocks in both countries, and in many cases, can even reproduce the fully cooperative outcome.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number101239
JournalResource and Energy Economics
StatePublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Fisheries
  • Game theory
  • Marine protected area
  • Spatial management
  • Transboundary resources

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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