International agreements are necessary for exclusion of non-cooperative behavior. We parameterized an age-structured model for the North Sea herring fishery. The reference points of the current harvest control rule operationalize the precautionary approach. Applying the precautionary approach by the grand coalition adds the net present value of the fishery compared to another management approach, a fixed fishing mortality rate strategy. The fishing strategy and costs have a strong impact on the stability of the coalitions. Adopting a precautionary harvest control rule has potential to stabilize multilateral fishing agreements provided that fishing costs are not identical among countries. If they are identical, there will always be incentive for free riding.