A matter of scales: Does the management of marine recreational fisheries follow the ecosystem approach to fisheries in Europe?
European policy-makers are increasingly aware of the ecological and socioeconomic relevance of marine recreational fisheries(MRF), but there are still gaps in the information needed to achieve sustainable management. How is the current management of European MRF performed? Is it promoting the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF)? The management of MRF in Europe was reviewed by analyzing how different European regulations align with the EAF in different geographic and administrative scales. Text mining tools were used to identify key concepts and analyze the text of legal regulations on MRF in the European Union (EU), Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom (UK). Also, the Ecosystem Fisheries Legal Assessment (EFLA) framework was used to assess the alignment of the regulations with the EAF. The number of regulations about MRF in Spain and Portugal is higher than in the UK and the EU, probably because the relative higher importance of regional regulations in Spain and Portugal, and the limitations imposed to recreational fishers in marine protected areas (MPAs). The lack of specific regulations on MRF in the EU, and open-access in the UK for recreational fishers, except for Atlantic salmon Salmo salar, explain their lower number of regulations. The EFLA framework showed that the European public policies on MRF follow the EAF principles. Enough attention is payed to ecological components, but socio-economic sustainability could be improved. However, policy efficiency could be lower than expected because potential institutional misfits derived from the eventual confluence of different spatial scales.