In search of snails

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TJ WRIGHT (Letters, September 29) expressed concerns about a recommended Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ) at Pagham, as well as concerns about the ongoing Lydd airport public inquiry – both of which have involved recommendations about the conservation of the rare DeFolin’s lagoon snail.

To clarify a few points:

a) The reason for recommending MCZs comes from the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The government wants to create an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas in our seas, and MCZs will contribute to this network. Balanced Seas regional MCZ stakeholder group made recommendations for the south east; and government will take socio-economic issues such as coastal defence into account when it decides which sites to progress.

b) Before 2007, the only known location of DeFolin’s lagoon snail was at the Fleet lagoon in Dorset. In 2007, however, Kent Wildlife Trust carried out a specialist saline lagoon snail survey which identified the existence of DeFolin’s lagoon snails at Lydd Ranges. Later that year, experts carried out a investigation of a different species of snail at Church Norton – only to discover at least 40 examples of DeFolin’s lagoon snails on the upper shingle shore of the western-most part of the spit. Two samples were taken, and 20 DeFolin’s lagoon snails were found in each sample.

c) We would like to clear up the confusion that appears to exist over the presence of DeFolin’s lagoon snails at Lydd Ranges. A general lagoon survey was carried out in 2010 at Lydd Ranges and at that time, the snail was not found there. However, the survey was undertaken to assess the general condition of the saline lagoon and not provide a comprehensive survey of particular species such as DeFolin’s lagoon snail. The procedures and equipment used therefore were different from what would have been needed to assess the existence and population of this snail, and it was not surprising that the snail was not recorded there.

d) Balanced Seas, working with a wide range of stakeholders from across the region, identified a small ‘reference area’ within the Pagham MCZ to protect the DeFolin’s lagoon snail at Church Norton spit. They did not recommend Lydd Ranges as a reference area, because it is a Ministry of Defence firing range and training ground, while Pagham is relatively undisturbed.

Natural England takes the concerns of Pagham residents, worried about the impact the reference area may have on coastal defence work, very seriously.

Natural England and the Coastal Defence regulators do not believe these recommendations will prevent the agreed coastal defence policies being implemented at Pagham. We are committed to protecting the natural environment in ways that work for both local communities and wildlife, and we will continue to work with local people and other regulators to find ways to conserve these special places whilst also providing coastal defence.

If readers would like to find out more, please email the Marine Conservation Zone Project at mczproject@jncc.gov.uk.

Audrey Jones,

Eastern Channels Senior Advisor,

Natural England