The long-running travel issues over ecologically threatened woods such as Brazilian rosewood are back in the forefront for those in the guitar industry.
The new 2017 international regulations don’t apply to non-commercial transportation of guitars and similar instruments, however. This means, at least in theory, that guitarists shouldn’t have problems when carrying their own instruments.
The Convention of International Trade of Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) agreement that went into effect Jan. 2, 2017, exempts those traveling with instruments for personal use with up to 22 pounds of regulated woods (per shipment). “Gifts” also are exempted, the U.S. Department of the Interior says. The new regulations also do not apply to instruments transported within a country.
A CITES convention in fall 2016 extended existing protections to all species of rosewood under the genus Dalbergia, three bubinga species (Guibourtia demeusei, Guibourtia pellegriniana and Guibourtia tessmannii), and kosso or African rosewood.
Manufacturers and sellers must provide CITIES certificates when shipping or transporting instruments with these woods, regardless of the instruments’ age.
For more detail, see the Fish and Wildlife Service letter about the 2017 rosewood changes.
The Department of Justice and the Fish and Wildlife Service have previously issued statements that citizens traveling with their musical instruments are not an enforcement priority. Most of the concern over these woods comes over their use in furniture.
The European Commission said, in reference to the new rules, that “the carrying of an item, such as a musical instrument, in personal luggage can in this regard be subject to less strict provisions if it meets the definition of a personal and household effect.”
The EC also said:
The cross-border movement of musical instruments for purposes including, but not limited to, personal use, paid or unpaid performance, display (e.g. on a temporary exhibition) or competition should be considered as non-commercial.
Transport of an instrument for repair also would be exempted, the EC said. Also, shipments for use by “traveling orchestras, music ensembles and similar groups” would not require CITES certificates, apparently.
Guitar makers, dealers and collectors have long faced a crazy quilt of regulations worldwide regarding endangered woods.
Musicians traveling with guitars face the unlikely but still possible nightmare of having to document where the wood in their guitars was harvested, with the burden of proof on the traveler.
The fears are especially acute for those with vintage instruments made of traditional but non-sustainable materials — or even for newer instruments made from stockpiles of exotic wood.
In late May 2013, the Department of Agriculture had said those traveling with guitars or similar instruments would “not need to submit a Lacey Act declaration for the instrument upon entry into the United States because (animal and plant inspectors are not) requiring the submission of a Lacey Act declaration for such informal entries.”