Explore Teaching Examples | Provide Feedback

Fishing Game: Stella PC and Mac

Matthew C. Halbower wrote this activity which is archive by the Bonneville Power Administration. Starting Point page organized by R.M. MacKay.
This material is replicated on a number of sites as part of the SERC Pedagogic Service Project


In this activity, you will play The Fishing Game. You are a manager in the national fish and wildlife service. You are charged with the responsibility of making policy suggestions regarding the management of a fishery surrounding your national borders. Fishing is an important source of economic income for your country so your decisions must ensure the healthy maintenance of the fish population and fishing industry.

The Fishing Game is a one-player game similar to Fish Banks, Ltd. The original Fish Banks, Ltd. is a role-playing game developed by Dennis L. Meadows at the University of New Hampshire. Dr. Meadows developed the game to inform people about using natural resources effectively and prudently. Although the game originally targeted corporate managers and public officials, anyone can benefit from the insights gained by playing the game.

Used this activity? Share your experiences and modifications

Learning Goals

Students will learn:
  • Introductory aspects of the use and modification of the Stella modeling environment;
  • Introductory lessons and concepts related to systems dynamics;
  • How models can be used to help assess policy;
  • About sustainable use of limited resources;
  • About the effectiveness of different environmental policy;
  • About the "tragedy of the commons".

Context for Use

Good introductory lesson for introductory geoscience course that has an Earth System approach and in which the instructor plans to make use of the Stella Modeling environment.

Teaching Materials

Materials at BPA STEPS site include:
  • The Fishing Game Users' Guide
  • The Fishing Game Simulator (be careful the PC and Mac versions are switched)
  • Related Reading Material: The Tragedy of the Commons (copy of Garrett Hardin's 1968 paper)
  • Other resources

Teaching Notes and Tips

The activity provided will likely take students 2 to 3 hours to work through. This can be used as a computer lab, homework assignment, or as an interactive lecture activity. If you do not have Stella at your school you can download a free demo version of Stella from High Performance Systems, Inc.


The completed assignment sheet can be used to assess student understanding. Follow-up discussions with individuals or with the whole class can also be helpful in assessing the effectiveness of this lesson.

References and Resources

Commercial version 'Fish Banks Game'

R.M. MacKay has developed a modified version of the Stella Fishing game and activity of Matthew C. Halbower. The assignment is slightly shorter and the Stella Model and Activity sheet are combined into a single Stella file. PC (zip) and Mac(sit) files are here.

Mac sit version ( 41kB Jun4 03)

PC zip version ( 39kB Jun4 03) {right click, save to disk, add *.zip extension, and open with WinZip}

The complete modified Activity of MacKay is:

  • Your job as regulator of the fish industry in these waters is to:
    • Ensure that the industry is sustainable with regards to fish population
    • Ensure that the industry makes a profit catching fish so that people will have fish at the market to buy.
    • Maximize the product of (fish population * Yearly profit)
  • As regulator you can:
    • Tax ships more which will add to the Ship Yearly Cost
    • Put a limit on the total catch per year (Max Catch Per Year)
    • Put a limit on the number of ships allowed at sea (Max Ships)
    • or any combination of these three.
{to change model parameters double click on the appropriate icon}

Write three paragraphs describing the effects on the fish industry of each option above.

What is your best solution? Describe your solution clearly giving all relevant numerical values.