|MADRID - European states agreed on Wednesday on proposals aimed at saving hundreds of species from extinction -- covering fish farming, shipping and protecting the high seas -- but environmentalists said they were not enough.|
Environment ministry officials from Europe, Russia and several central Asian countries met in Madrid to fix a common proposal to take to an annual U.N. conference on biodiversity in Malaysia next month.
Aiming to halt a global decline in biodiversity by 2010, they agreed to develop protected natural areas, including parts of the high seas, which fall outside national jurisdictions.
They agreed to clean up sea shipping -- a sore point in Spain just over a year after a wrecked tanker coated its beaches in oil -- and fish farms.
The network of protected areas -- which the concluding document said was an important part of \"adapting to climate change and mitigating its effects\" -- should be established by 2010 on land and 2012 at sea.
Scientists say the rate at which species are dying out may be thousands of times higher than it would be without man\'s intervention.
In Europe at least 40 percent of bird and butterfly species are threatened and European Union leaders have already pledged to stop biodiversity decline by 2010.
Environmentalists said the proposals agreed at the intergovernmental conference, which included providing \"adequate financing,\" did not go far enough.
\"The conclusions in general are not very ambitious...every government had already agreed that we have a crisis of species and habitat loss,\" said Martin Kaiser of Greenpeace.
\"EU countries have not committed to significantly support developing countries in the implementation of protected areas ... there\'s no commitment to provide money.\"
Tamas Marghescu, regional director for Europe at the World Conservation Union -- which brings together governments and non-governmental organizations -- said it was unlikely biodiversity loss would be stopped by 2010.
\"It is extremely ambitious; it is most likely that it will not be achieved.\"
Story by Emma Ross-Thomas
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE