PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA, The rise in ocean pollution is a massive threat to the fishing industry, the Pan-African Marine Waste Conference now underway in Port Elizabeth has been told.

This is of great concern to the many African countries which are heavily reliant on the ocean. In Mozambique for example, 80 per cent of the work force is employed in the fishing industry and it is the biggest generator of direct jobs.

Ocean pollution is crippling communities and economic growth of countries which rely heavily on fishing for an income, according to Pippa Howard, a scientist from Mozambique, who told the conference: If there is a loss of productivity of the fisheries (sector), that will certainly impact the local communities and there will be a knock-on effect on their food security.

Experts believe that policies on plastic waste are needed.

Abou Bamba, the Executive Secretary of the Abidjan Convention the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), says: We know that more than 50 per cent of the young people in Africa are unemployed and some people will say we are trying to create jobs through plastic industry and why are you as environmentalists blocking that, but my stance is that we can still use plastic as long as it's bio-degradable and through that we can create jobs.

Julius Francis from the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science centre in Nairobi says: Some of the tunas do contain some mercury, but very low levels so tuna continue to be exported from the region. The same in the lakes, there have been some concerns about big lakes and the export of fish that contains some of the pollutants.

There are fears that Africa may soon become as heavily polluted as South East Asia, which is considered the most polluted region in the world and experts say Africa is approaching a crisis situation which needs to be addressed immediately.