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For the first time in more than 30 years, a comprehensive report analyzing the status of America's oceans has been released, and Old Dominion University biologist Cynthia Jones is hopeful it will focus new attention on a serious problem.

The Pew Oceans Commission, a bipartisan independent group of American leaders, released the report, "America's Living Oceans: Charting a Course for Sea Change," which details the crisis that America's oceans are facing. The scientists, fishermen, conservationists, business leaders and elected officials that make up the commission call for immediate reforms in U.S. ocean laws and policies.

"The Pew report brings needed attention to the state of the nation's fisheries and to the loss of habitat that is so important to sustain fisheries in the future," said Cynthia Jones, associate commissioner of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission and professor of biological sciences at Old Dominion.

Jones, who is also director of ODU's Center for Quantitative Fisheries Ecology, was named one of the Virginia Outstanding Scientists of 2003. She is internationally known as a pioneer in fisheries ecology and has developed important laboratory techniques to collect information through the study of fish ear bones. Because of her work, scientists can now identify essential fish habitats and determine which ones provide the best living conditions.

According to Jones, the possible reauthorization of the Magnuson-Stevens Fisheries Conservation Act this year spurred on the Pew Oceans Commission report, which is the first of its kind since the Stratton Commission last reviewed U.S. ocean policy and resource management in 1969. It has also been 30 years since the United States claimed a 200-mile exclusive economic zone around the continent.

In the meantime, there have been significant changes in marine ecosystems and the health of their fisheries. The commission found that the overfishing at sea, overdevelopment along the coasts and increasing pollution from cities and fields have led to a decline in ocean wildlife and the collapse of ocean ecosystems.

"Without reform, our daily actions will increasingly jeopardize a valuable natural resource and an invaluable aspect of our national heritage," states the report.

For more information contact Jones at 683-4497 or cjones@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: June 10, 2003

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