New US rules on ivory: what you need to know

From the League of American Orchestras:

On July 6, 2016, new rules will take effect related to both international travel and domestic commerce with musical instruments that contain small quantities of African elephant ivory. The League played a key leadership role in national conversations with White House officials, top leadership at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Congress, and conservation organizations to successfully seek solutions that would address urgent conservation concerns while also protecting international cultural activity.

The rules broaden access to travel permits, allow for domestic interstate commerce in musical instruments containing small quantities of ivory, and very helpfully clarify that legally-crafted musical instruments are not contributing to the African elephant poaching and trafficking crisis.

In announcing the rules to reverse current travel restrictions and provide opportunities for ongoing domestic interstate commerce in musical instruments, the USFWS stated that, “We listened carefully to the legitimate concerns raised by various stakeholder groups and, as a result, are allowing commonsense, narrow exceptions for musicians, musical instrument makers and dealers…to trade items that have minimal amounts of ivory and satisfy other conditions. These items are not drivers of elephant poaching and do not provide cover for traffickers.”

What does that mean?

For international travel, the new rules remove the current prohibition on travel with musical instruments purchased after February 25, 2014 that legally contain African elephant ivory. This removal of the purchase date restriction is a significant improvement. By July 6, the USFWS will issue a revised Director’s Order clarifying the policy change, and musicians who purchased instruments after February 25, 2014 that legally contain ivory will be eligible to apply for a travel permit.

That sounds good, but there will still be problems with over-zealous Customs officials.

Under the new rules, a musical instrument that contains African elephant ivory may qualify for a travel permit if the worked African elephant ivory meets all of the following criteria:
– The African elephant ivory contained in the instrument was legally acquired and removed from the wild prior to February 26, 1976;
– The instrument containing worked ivory is accompanied by a valid Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) musical instrument certificate or equivalent CITES document;

– The instrument is securely marked or uniquely identified so that authorities can verify that the certificate corresponds to the musical instrument in question; and

– The instrument is not sold, traded, or otherwise disposed of while outside the certificate holder’s country of usual residence.
This is not over yet.

Further requests of the music community related to easing international travel restrictions will be under consideration in separate U.S. rulemaking procedures, and as CITES is renegotiated in 2016.

Watch this space.  

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