Louis Electric

November issue is here!

Illegal Instrument Immigrants: CITES protection bears down on traveling musicians


CITES protection is quickly entering the vocabulary of traveling musicians. CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, was approved in 1973 by a panel of representatives from 80 countries as a way to keep endangered plants and animals from being exploited through trade. Now, CITES boasts 171 members who follow the guidelines set out by the treaty, and those guidelines may make it nearly impossible for a musician to legally carry his guitar across country lines.

At the upcoming CITES meeting, from June 6-15, CITES members will be considering additional measures that will drastically affect musicians if passed. Three species of rosewood and a species of cedar are being considered for Appendix II protection. While current Appendix II protection does not restrict finished goods, the proposed changes would restrict finished goods without consideration of when they were made.

The rosewood species in question - Honduran rosewood, Nicaraguan rosewood and pernambuco - aren''t found on most guitars, but pernambuco has been used almost exclusively for violin bows. If the restrictions pass, violinists will find it near impossible to travel with the bows, and that precedent paints a bleak future for musicians traveling with vintage instruments.

CITES divides protection into three categories of species: Appendix I, Appendix II, and Appendix III. Appendix I is the most severe, and CITES describes the species included as "species threatened with extinction." The only tonewood currently protected under Appendix I is Brazilian rosewood. Under these guidelines, permits are required to import or export the wood, as well as products made with the wood. In addition, any products made with Brazilian rosewood since 1992 are subject to additional scrutiny when trading to determine whether or not the wood was obtained legally.

Appendix II currently protects three species of mahogany, including Honduran mahogany. Appendix II currently only requires permits for exports and does not restrict finished products, like guitars. Appendix III is state-specific protection, where specific areas can request to have a species added. Spanish cedar is the only tonewood protected under Appendix III, and finished products are not affected.

Until April 20, NAMM had been petitioning musicians to contact the U.S. representative of CITES, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, to call for changes to the restrictions so that they wouldn''t restrict finished products. Keep checking back for updates after the CITES meeting closes on June 15.

If you''re up for some heavy reading, check out cites.org for more complete descriptions of the Appendices, travel guidelines, and a database of protected species.