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Music instruments made of rare materials

Do you have Ivory or Brazilian Rosewood, Abalone or other materials built into your instrument? Are you travelling abroad?

Members travelling overseas are advised to read the Government's most up to date online guidance on moving instruments which may need a CITES permit.

There are certain precautions you should take to protect your instrument, especially if travelling to the USA.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has for some time now been concerned with the illegal trade of endangered flora and fauna such as Brazilian Rosewood, African Ivory, Mother of Pearl and Abalone to name but a few. These species have for many years been used in instrument manufacture.

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) have introduced regulations that allow for instruments with certain endangered species to be seized by authorities when musicians have been entering or leaving the country when working.

This has raised  concerns for the American Federation of Musicians (AFM) and the American League of Orchestras who have been lobbying hard for an exemption for musicians.

Thanks to their efforts, the USFWS issued an amended order making it possible to travel with instruments made, sold or transferred before February 2014.

The key thing here is that while this exemption now exists you still need to be able to prove purchase, transfer details of the instrument and have supporting documentation.

CITES has recommended the use of a ‘Musical Instrument Certificate’ which, will identify when the instrument was bought, and should include accompanying purchase/transfer documentation and identifying photos of the instrument.

We would advise that if you have any concerns, you contact the UK issuing authority APHA directly, using their office access details for CITES enquiries. They are best placed to answer any questions you may have.

The Union is working with other international musicians unions and employers on your behalf to try to make this process easier and more transparent for musicians.

Together with FIM and Performing Arts Employers’ Associations League Europe (Pearle) we’ve produced a guide on applying for CITES certifications, and complying with the applicable rules. This advice is suitable for music ensembles, groups and orchestras, as well as for individual musicians.

Anyone can read and download ‘Crossing Borders: A Guide for Musicians and Ensembles Travelling with Musical Instruments Containing Protected Species’ for free.

If you have any concerns, please email dave.webster@theMU.org or kelly.wood@theMU.org.

Related downloads

CITES (Update August 2017) (PDF 17.3 bytes file opens in new window)

Crossing Borders Guide 2020 (PDF 1.93 MB file opens in new window)