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CITES - What every bass player should know

Discussion in 'Basses [BG]' started by Turnaround, Apr 24, 2014.

  1. ajkula66


    Sep 23, 2016
    Idiocy and money grab by various bureaucracies worldwide. A "passport" costs $75 per instrument in the U.S. the last time I checked, presuming that one can fill out the form without pulling their hair out AND that the document actually gets approved/issued...

    If I'm still alive two years from now for my final move back across the pond, I'll be offering first-hand experiences on how to deal with this entire nonsense.
    iunno, murphy, Jeff Scott and 2 others like this.
  2. matti777

    matti777 Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2007
    Edmonton, Canada
    Wenge isn’t permitted either if I understand things correctly
  3. Green Knight

    Green Knight Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2016
    I did read that, and I was happy, but then I saw on various cites that Madagascar ebony is Appendix ii, and I was unhappy. Here's one of them:

    Checklist of CITES species

    I guess I'm concerned that they'll just see ebony and kaibosh it.
  4. s_wood

    s_wood Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2003
    Delaware (USA)
    Sigh....I didn’t want to geek out too much with this...but here goes... :) Short version: ebony as used in finished musical instruments isn't covered. Long version follows.

    CITES uses 3 Appendices to list the various species that are covered by the treaty, called Appendix I, II and III.
    The appendix to which a given species is classified defines the degree of protection it is given by the treaty.

    Appendix I covers species that are threatened with extinction, and those species basically cannot be traded internationally. For our purposes, common bass (or guitar) materials on Appendix I include Brazilian rosewood, ivory (from elephants or mammoths) and real tortoiseshell (not the plastic stuff!).

    Appendix II covers species that are at risk, but not yet threatened with extinction. Those products are subject to all kinds of harvesting, export and import restrictions which vary by species, but can be traded internationally with the right paperwork.The genus dalbergia is in Appendix II except for dalbergia nigra (Brazilian rosewood), which is in Appendix I. FYI, cocobolo, tulipwood and bubinga are all species in the dalbergia genus, so they are in Appendix II. The Appendix II restrictions on dalbergia currently cover "all parts and derivatives," which means anything with an Appendix II wood in it. (There is supposed to be a less than 10kg exemption for non-commercial cross-border transfers - search this thread for more on that if you care about it).

    Ebony - but only ebony from Madagascar - is listed in Appendix II, but only the international trade of "logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets and plywood" is covered. Your bass probably isn't any of those things, so you are good to go.

    Appendix III covers species that are requested for coverage by a particular country. Don't worry about those.

    Here's a link to the CITES appendices at the official CITES website: Appendices | CITES
    In the US, CITES enforcement is handled by the US Fish & Wildlife Service. Here's their list of covered plant species, which is handy because it uses common names, not just the Latin genus/species nomenclature:
    Current CITES Listings of Tree Species

    BTW, and as discussed above, there is a proposal pending before the CITES convention literally this week that will exempt "finished musical instruments and finished musical instrument parts" from all Appendix II restrictions.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2019
    murphy, ajkula66, 74hc and 2 others like this.
  5. Green Knight

    Green Knight Supporting Member

    Oct 18, 2016
    You, sir, made my day.
    s_wood likes this.
  6. JakobT


    Jan 9, 2014
    Oslo, Norway
    It’s worth mentioning that the proposal was passed by a «key CITES committee» this week, and is expected to be finalized by the end of the week, so it’s looking good. No word yet on when it comes into effect, but I suppose we’ll know when and if it’s finalized. Fingers crossed. :)
    murphy and gebass6 like this.
  7. Jim Carr

    Jim Carr Dr. Jim Gold Supporting Member

    Jan 21, 2006
    Denton, TX or Kailua, HI
    fEARful Kool-Aid dispensing liberal academic card-carrying union member Musicians Local 72-147
  8. 74hc


    Nov 19, 2015
    Sunny California
    Honestly, that sounds like everything with Madagascar ebony is covered. Seems like everything comes from either logs, sawn wood, veneer, or plywood. My ebony fretboard probably is made from sawn wood.

    And besides, is Madagascar ebony an actual species or more of a location such as certain ebony species grown in Madagascar?
  9. DrMole

    DrMole Supporting Member

    Your fretboard may have come from a piece of sawn wood or veneer but once it became a fretboard on an individual instrument, you are not able to engage in international trade in those aforementioned prohibited forms of the wood. So as I and most seem to understand it, the law will not prohihibit traveling with a fretboard of CITEs materials.

    Importing 100 ebony logs will not be looked at the same as having an ebony fretboard on an individual instrument that once was part of an ebony log.

    Importing thousands of fretboards would be a different story.
    s_wood likes this.
  10. s_wood

    s_wood Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2003
    Delaware (USA)
    The CITES treaty creates a complicated system for regulating the various species that are included within its regulatory structure. There are 3 appendices, as I explained a few posts above. In addition, each appendix also describes the exact restrictions that apply to each species listed in that appendix. Sometimes, the species is covered wherever it comes from and in whatever form it’s exported or used. In other cases, only species from a certain country or countries are included, and sometimes only certain forms of export or international trade are covered.

    So, for instance, even though rosewood (dalbergia excepting Brazilian rosewood which is in Appendix I) and ebony are both covered in Appendix II, Appendix II also says that all dalbergia (except Brazilian rosewood) is covered, wherever it comes from and in whatever form. Ebony, though, is only covered if it comes from Madagascar and only if it is in the form of a log, sawn wood, plywood or veneer. In other words, only unfinished ebony from Madagascar is covered by Appendix II.

    And, with any luck at all, by the end of this week musical instruments containing Appendix II woods will no longer be covered by CITES at all.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2019
    murphy, ak56, BlueTalon and 1 other person like this.
  11. bdplaid

    bdplaid Supporting Member

    Aug 31, 2007
    Aren't they revising the treaty to exclude finished musical instruments? I read that somewhere.
    murphy likes this.
  12. ajkula66


    Sep 23, 2016
    They are BUT only the ones including Appendix II species which means that one could still be harassed if a customs agent decided that their instrument contained (Appendix I) Brazilian Rosewood. And, as usual, the burden of proof is on the owner, not on the agent.
    s_wood and bdplaid like this.
  13. s_wood

    s_wood Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2003
    Delaware (USA)
    Right! That’s a problem discussed elsewhere in the thread. Most bass players can’t tell the difference between Brazilian and the other types of rosewood, so it’s probably fair to assume that most customs inspectors can’t, either. The only protection against a mistake like this is proper documentation if you are shipping a bass or a CITES instrument passport if you are traveling with one. In the US, CITES instrument passports are issued by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Look here for more info:
    Musical Instruments.
  14. Smooth_bass88

    Smooth_bass88 Groove it

    Some good news!
  15. BlueTalon

    BlueTalon Happy Cynic

    Mar 20, 2011
    Spokane, Washington
    Endorsing Artist: Turnstyle Switch
    Good news, but it's not over yet. "...a key CITES committee approved it. If finalized as expected this week..."
    Jeff Scott likes this.
  16. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Wenge is not a CITES protected wood.
  17. s_wood

    s_wood Gold Supporting Member Supporting Member

    Mar 23, 2003
    Delaware (USA)
    This article has been posted on this thread 4 or 5 times in the last couple of days. It is only partially accurate: the proposed changes will NOT affect the near-total ban on the international sale of instruments containing Brazilian rosewood. For more info on this, scroll up.
    Jim Carr likes this.
  18. matti777

    matti777 Supporting Member

    Dec 13, 2007
    Edmonton, Canada
    Interesting and confusing that it is listed as endangered and on the red list but not protected by CITES
  19. Tom Bomb

    Tom Bomb Supporting Member

    Apr 23, 2014
    In the face of so much madness, it's good to see people making a principled stand (of rosewood) … lest "the world of music and culture … lose certain instruments that produce the highest quality tones, with no corresponding conservation benefit." Sweet music.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2019
    mikewalker likes this.

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