Rare moth to get protection status

A RARE moth only found in parts of north Essex and Kent is to receive special legal protection today after being identified as one of the most threatened insects in Britain.

Roddy Ashworth

A RARE moth only found in parts of north Essex and Kent is to receive special legal protection todayafter being identified as one of the most threatened insects in Britain.

The Fishers estuarine moth lives in coastal areas where its traditional habitat at risk from inundation as sea levels rise.

The total population of the moth, which was only discovered in the UK in the 1960s, is estimated to be between 1,000 and 5,000 insects.


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Its range is limited to areas of hog's fennel - the sole food source of the Fisher's estuarine caterpillar - which in the UK is only found by the sea.

But a partnership between conservationists and landowners is attempting to establish new habitats for the moth away from the threat of coastal erosion.

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Agri-environment schemes, funded by the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and administered by Natural England, have encouraged landowners and farmers to plant hog fennel inland, and sow seeds of the plant into established grassland.

Natural England, along with Writtle College, the Environment Agency, Butterfly Conservation and Tendring District Council have helped establish 19 new sites in Essex for the moth.

Sarah Brockless, from Natural England, said: “If we hadn't stepped in to create new areas of hog's fennel away from the threat of rising sea levels this beautiful moth would have struggled to survive.

“The fantastic co-operation and enthusiasm of landowners has extended a lifeline so this very vulnerable species may continue to survive long-term in this part of the country.”

The Fisher's estuarine moth already had some protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, but an announcement to be made later today means it will be protected under the Habitats Regulation from being killed, taken, injured, disturbed, owned or sold, or having its resting or breeding places destroyed.

The moth, which is in flight during September and October, is distinctive because it has a relatively large wing span of some 4cm to 5cm and pale gold wings with light and dark spots.

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