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The Fish and Wildlife Service wants to see your bow.

Discussion in 'Bows and Rosin [DB]' started by Don Higdon, Mar 18, 2014.

  1. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    This is news I welcome, for the fact that it heightens awareness of the butchery involved in the black market trade of elephant ivory.
  2. I think everybody agrees with conservation efforts generally, but this regulation is pretty extreme. This applies to any ivory purchased after 1976, not just manufactured. As a child of the 80's, it's impossible for me to travel with a shred of ivory, even if it's attached to a 150 year old instrument. These instruments are pieces of historical art, from another time and place.

    Further confounding things, a good many of us have bows with tips or even whole frogs made from mammoth bone. Being long-extinct, mammoth is perfectly legal to own, but it's almost indistinguishable from elephant ivory. Can customs agents tell the difference?
  3. Tom Lane

    Tom Lane Gold Supporting Member

    Apr 28, 2011
    Torrance, CA
    Looking at my best bow, it appears to have oyster at the frog and plastic(?) at the tip, but I can imagine a customs official erring on the conservative side and claiming that the tip is ivory and confiscating my bow and I'm REALLY attached to MY bow! It's part of my instrument!
    I'm all against animal pouching, particularly elephants, but this law appears to be poorly considered and in my opinion should be overturned in favor of stricter laws on the import of raw ivory.
  4. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    Yes a bit inconvenient for those who posses antique instruments. But it gets the message across. I think finding alternative bows shouldn't really be a game ender for a skilled musician needing a tool to travel with. For those dealing in antique instruments, I guess it's hard for business.
  5. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    There have been a number of articles and blogs popping up with this lately, and I am trying to figure out where I stand. My initial reaction was extremely opposed to it, and while my thoughts have developed some and are a bit conflicted, I still feel that way.

    First, I completely believe that the current use and trade of endangered species is a horrible idea. I think a lot of people agree on this, and "policy/law makers" know that. It is a lot easier to get public opinion and support behind "killing elephants is bad, so we are clamping down on the ivory trade." Instead of "killing elephants is bad. We decided this and took action in the 70's, and it is still a problem. As such, we are trying to find a way to make life excessively difficult for the ivory trade, but it's going to really complicate things for musicians and historians and art galleries and..." Grey area is a lot harder to regulate.

    Second, bows with ivory tips are not being purchased because of the ivory involved. Pianos with ivory keys are not either. Even though pedigree bows with ivory frogs or buttons might command higher prices, that is usually because makers reserved those fittings for some of their best sticks. Simply put, those bows are arguably some of the best in the world. Preventing musicians from using Sartory or Hill or Dodd or other esteemed makers means they have to stop using a part of their instrument. Furthermore, having the clause that it cannot have been acquired since the 70's and even if it was but the documentation isn't there is effectively grandfathering them out of use. Not only are you out of luck if you legally obtained the bow between now and then (which is crazy) but for those of us young guys, we never will have the privilege. This is not only preventing musicians access to some of the best tools of the trade, but it is also regulating and confiscating a huge part of our cultural history.

    Third, the majority of modern bow makers are part of the solution, not part of the problem. While there are still bows being made by a few companies with loose morals that are using brand new tortoise shell, illegally cut and sold pernambuco, and probably ivory, they are by and large poorly constructed cheap bows from people in parts of the world where shark fin soup and poaching are alive and well. There are bow makers who take it upon themselves to search eBay and other parts of the web to report and shut down these people, because they give our trade a bad name. In "the west" I do not know a respected bow maker who does not go out of their way to make sure they are using legally sourced pernambuco or other woods, and the majority of them are actively involved in the conservation and reforestation effort. Mastodon ivory is being sparingly reserved by most for restorations of pedigree bows or their finest work, and cow bone and other alternatives are seeing wide spread use. "Alternative woods" (a term I hate because they were used historically with great success and are as good or better than pernambuco in the hands of a skilled maker) are also becoming much more accepted and widely used, and this is one of very few trades that is actually putting their money where their mouth is. Punishing bow makers and musicians for a problem that they themselves are trying to help solve is a good way to alienate some of your strongest allies.

    Fourth, I am really concerned about how this is going to be enforced. I am sure there are ways to differentiate elephant ivory from mastodon ivory, cow bone, and other alternatives, but are border guards/customs agents everywhere going to be able to do this quickly and efficiently? Mastodon ivory is ivory, methods like carbon dating require samples, and there isn't much there to be sampling. Likewise, the alternatives being used are used because the look and behave similar to ivory. There is talk about this "instrument passport" but it isn't universally accepted yet, has to be renewed frequently, and to the untrained eye, most bows look remarkably similar. If that is the case, even those of us intending to travel with bows that do not contain restricted materials could be in danger of having our bows taken. How do we protect ourselves from someone who is "just doing their job" but isn't intimately familiar with ivory alternatives?

    That is enough of a novel for so early in the morning, but this definitely is troubling. I am very curious what the League and Union and other musicians organizations will have to say and how this will be handled, but unfortunately it seems like they are consulting with those bodies after setting this in stone instead of before.

    Does anyone have affiliations with the league or union? Have they produced statements or suggestions about how to move forward from here?
  6. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    Well, establishing the instruments provenance to get exemption from these regulations going to be tedious. It's doubtful that there is a short term solution other than finding other materials to travel with.

    Every time there has been a grace period for the trade in ivory, the smugglers and dealers have seen it as a loophole opportunity to do business as usual.
  7. MikeCanada


    Aug 30, 2011
    Toronto, ON
    I'm not suggesting a grace period, or one last "hey everyone, now is the time" but it is pretty crazy that they have determined that anything purchased up to almost 40 years is now illegal. Likewise, if you're travelling and haven't returned to the states yet, you could have your bow seized upon return. That seems a bit extreme as well.

    While I don't see changes or revisions happening soon either, some clarification on how one can travel with non-elephant ivory bows would be appreciated as well. I doubt they are going to take my word when I say "it's bone" and I am just as concerned if there is going to be some sort of testing method that could compromise my bow. Do I have to get one of these "passports" for my non-ivory bows as well? It all seems extremely confusing and not very clear. I feel like the least they can do is go public with some FAQ's and help put our minds at ease.
  8. MR PC

    MR PC

    Dec 1, 2007
    That's been happening with antique instruments (mostly stringed) constructed with Brazilian rosewood for quite some time. And it's been the luck of the draw when traveling with those instruments, as far as seizure goes. If it seems that you are in any way found trying to conceal the said illegal substance, you are in deep doo-doo.
  9. LouisF

    LouisF Supporting Member

    Apr 21, 2003
    Los Angeles, CA
    This came from the American Symphony Orchestra L:eague today:

    League Weighs in on Ivory and Instruments

    March 21, 2014, Washington D.C. – Yesterday, the League made the case for protecting international travel with musical instruments at a public meeting of the Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking. The statement calls on the Administration and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to take into full account the essential nature of international travel with musical instruments, and to work with the music community to develop policies that support conservation efforts while also protecting international cultural activity.

    On February 25, 2014, new strict limits immediately took effect for traveling with instruments that contain African elephant ivory. In an effort to protect African elephants from poaching by combating illegal trade in ivory, the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has ordered strict enforcement procedures related to the Endangered Species Act and the African Elephant Conservation Act. According to the broad terms of the order, many instruments containing African elephant ivory may not be allowed into the U.S., even if a musician is simply returning with instruments in his or her personal possession.

    We fully support efforts to protect endangered species. We are concerned by very specific aspects of the ban that will significantly impact musical activity, and we are seeking a policy solution in partnership with our colleagues at the American Federation of Musicians, The Recording Academy, Chamber Music America, the American Federation of Violin and Bowmakers, and NAMM, the National Association of Music Merchants.

    Orchestras regularly invite international artists to perform for U.S. audiences, tour internationally, and musicians frequently travel abroad to perform as soloists and members of small ensembles. A great many musicians, particularly string players, perform with instruments that contain small amounts of elephant ivory, most commonly found in the tips of fine bows. Ivory may also be found in an array of string instruments, wind instruments, and certain percussion instruments. Musical instruments currently in use that contain African elephant ivory, while legally manufactured and acquired, are likely to have been purchased after ban’s cut-off date of 1976, and will be completely prohibited from entering or re-entering into the U.S.

    The League is in ongoing dialogue with policy leaders to seek both short and long-term solutions that address wildlife conservation goals while also protecting international musical activity that requires musicians to travel across borders with the tools of their trade.

    Please find more on the rules for traveling with instruments containing protected species material through the following links to the League’s website.

    • Key background regarding the new African Elephant ivory ban

    • Detailed guidance on the existing CITES rules for travel with items that contain other protected species, such as tortoise shell and rosewood.

    Many unanswered questions remain about the process for being in compliance with these new rules, and the actual timeline for enforcement at U.S. borders is unclear. We will let you know as soon as we find answers. In the meantime, please contact the League’s Washington, D.C. office for more information.
  10. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    What about AFM? They are presumably also working on this. There site was down just now, though.

    Edit: Duh. I see in the text they are working jointly with LAO.
  11. Today I received an email about this from the president of the AFM:

    "Dear AFM members:

    Many of you have contacted our offices concerning the new Department of Interior-US Fish and Wildlife Service Order that bans the import, export, sale and transfer of ownership of items containing African elephant ivory.

    This is to advise you that your union has been fully engaged on this matter from the instant the Obama administration abruptly issued the order released by the Department of the Interior.

    As you may know, the entire American arts community has reacted negatively to this new ban that was prompted by President Obama's February 11th announcement that the US will now join the rest of the world in attempting to curb African rhinoceros and elephant poaching in order to discourage illegal trafficking in rhino and elephant tusks, driven in large part by rising demand in China.

    Since July 2013, AFM Legislative Director Alfonso Pollard met regularly with US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) senior staff regarding Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species (CITES) issues as relates to musical instruments. The AFM and related interests have been working CITES senior staff toward a musical passport solution for artists traveling internationally. The meetings have focused on the need for a comprehensive travel permit for instruments made from rare woods and endangered species components.

    DURING THOSE MEETINGS, UFWS GAVE NO DETAIL ABOUT THE TIMING OF THE ORDER'S RELEASE ON ELEPHANT IVORY. With the serious implications to the livelihood of professional musicians across the country uppermost in mind, the AFM is currently using its congressional influence to revise the governmental rulemaking process at the highest levels of the federal government.

    We want you to know that our highly qualified senior staff is working to resolve this matter before it can have a negative effect upon our industry. Please review the April International Musician Legislative column which is devoted to this matter, and get involved. Sign on to our petition which will coincide with the release of the IM, and most importantly, fill out our AFM survey. The personal information you provide will help your Union move legislators to action. Thank you for your interest and thank you for your membership."
  12. Don't expect much.
  13. zontar


    Feb 19, 2014
    Well I had already decided that if I go to the US I am leaving all my gear at home--just in case--even though there is no ivory or Brazilian Rosewood involved.
  14. robobass


    Aug 1, 2005
    Cologne, Germany
    Private Inventor - Bass Capos
    If enforced, this is going to create havoc. Imagine all of the foreign orchestras and soloists who arrive on US shores planning to give concerts, only to have their precious bows taken away at the airport. Will the bows be returned when the musicians leave US soil? Or, will they be destroyed? What will happen to American musicians trying to arrange concerts abroad? I doubt they will be very welcome in countries whose own musicians have had their bows confiscated by US authorities. Perhaps the laws could be adjusted to exempt bows which are brought in only for performance purposes, and not intended for sale.
  15. bassa

    bassa Guest

    Jun 16, 2005
    Came to the forum to see if the new ivory regulations were being discussed, and they are.
    The ubiquity of ivory bow tips suggests an exemption ought be made for them. As mentioned above, a bow is not bought for the ivory per se, and of course there's the problem of tavelling with one's gear without getting into trouble.

    Now, if the US government wouldn't mind footing the cost of replacing all bow tips and burning the salvaged ivory, I could support that. I'm serious.

    My bow is a Siegfried Finkle I purchased some time betweem 1979-1983. Is it likely the tip is ivory? When did ivory ceased to be used for bow tips? (Aside: fwiw, my 1975 Steinway L has plastic key covers.)
  16. This regulation only applies to African ivory, and not Asian ivory. Good luck with that.
  17. Sam Sherry

    Sam Sherry Inadvertent Microtonalist Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2001
    Portland, ME
    Euphonic Audio "Player"
    Some of the outcry strikes me as unintentionally ironic. New bows are much more widely accepted at the professional and virtuoso levels than new violins and 'celli.
  18. bassa

    bassa Guest

    Jun 16, 2005
    Why ironic, Sam? I will give you that the new bows coming out are good, and that the introduction of carbon fiber brings a good bow within reach as never before, but what of us who have our bow of choice? I still prefer the sound my Finkl draws from anything else, whether newer or older. Bow aren't criminal tools, after all (well, unless you've heard a player on a bad day...).