Fisher's Estuarine Moth

Identification & General ecology

Fisher’s Estuarine Moth (Gortyna borelii lunata) is a rare and highly threatened species.  In Britain, it has a distribution restricted to low-lying coastal grassland habitats that support its sole caterpillar food plant, Hog's Fennel (Peucedanum officinale), and the long coarse grasses the moth requires for egg laying.

(Photo - Mickey Andrews)

Fisher’s Estuarine Moth is a rare and highly threatened species.  In Britain, it has a distribution restricted to low-lying coastal grassland habitats that support its sole caterpillar food plant, Hog's Fennel (Peucedanum officinale), and the long coarse grasses the moth requires for egg laying.

The main stronghold for the species is the Walton Backwaters area of the North Essex coast, where the majority of the population is found at Skipper’s Island.  This key site for the moth is severely threatened by flooding, as a consequence of sea level rise and deteriorating sea walls.

Certain areas of Hog’s Fennel on the island have already been lost to coastal erosion and salt marsh encroachment and complete inundation at some point in the future is inevitable.  Consequently, the moth will almost certainly be lost from this site and the remaining sites may be too small to support a sustainable population.  Therefore to ensure the long-term future of this moth in Essex it is essential that secure sites be created away from the dangers of flooding.

Biodiversity Project work

The project leader (Dr Zoe Ringwood of Writtle College) has collaborated with the Essex Biodiversity Project and Essex Wildlife Trust (Carole Mander) to clear areas of scrub on Skipper's Island to allow Hog's Fennel and Fisher's Estuarine Moth to re-colonise the interior of the island, away from the immediate threat of flooding.

In addition, trials have been conducted at Abbotts Hall Farm to examine different methods of establishing Hog’s Fennel at sites away from the dangers of flooding. This work links in with a project that aims to conserve Fisher’s Estuarine Moth on a landscape-scale by developing a programme to enable farmers/landowners to receive support for creating and managing sites for the moth through agri-environment schemes, particularly Higher Level Stewardship (HLS). Both the foodplant and the moth are now established at Abbots Hall Farm

Download Press release on progress December 2010 (Word document 238KB)