Despite some limitations in fully implementing the provisions of the Philippine Fisheries Code, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources undoubtedly benefited from the said law to improve its capabilities in serving the fishery sector. Nevertheless, the agency was haunted with myriad of challenges when the new millennium had set in. One of which is the threat brought about by unabated illegal, unreported and unregulated or IUU fishing which undermines not only the sustainability of the country’s fisheries and aquatic resources, but also the livelihood of people depending on them. It was during this period that the Department of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources’ (DA-BFAR) research arm, the National Fisheries Research Development Institute through the National Stock Assessment Project or NSAP revealed that 10 out of 13 of the country’s fishing grounds have shown signs of overfishing.
The government through the DA-BFAR under the Aquino Administration acknowledged the problem on the ailing state of the fisheries and aquatic resources and initiated measures to address them. To further capacitate the organization in preventing further resource degradation, from a budget of 3.3 billion pesos in 2010 to more than 6 billion in 2015, the DA-BFAR incessantly worked for this budget increase. On top of this effort was the BFAR National Director who at that time concurrently functioned as the Department of Agriculture’s Undersecretary for Fisheries by virtue of a Special Order No. 762 dated 10 October 2014.
While the DA-BFAR was focused on strengthening its institutional capacity, particularly on fishery law enforcement, in 2015, the bureau welcomed the passing of Republic Act No. 10654 entitled “An Act to Prevent, Deter and Eliminate Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing, Amending Republic Act No. 8550, Otherwise Known as ‘The Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998,” and for Other Purposes”. The amended fisheries code which lapsed into law on 27 February 2015 had paved the way to a more improved fisheries governance with the DA-BFAR at the forefront of its implementation. Finally, the amended fisheries code boosted the credibility of the country in its fight against IUU fishing.