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CITES & International Shipping Restrictions – September 2016

CITES rules regarding East Indian Rosewood changed in December 2019. This information may be outdated but is left here as an archive.

International – the word appears in the name of our company! We value our international customers and appreciate the opportunity to work with and befriend luthiers from around the world. But more and more we are limited as to what products we are allowed to ship to them. Why is that?

CITES is an international organization that regulates the import and export of plant and animal species and materials in order to protect endangered species. Their rulings are legally binding in all of the 182 countries who participate. It is CITES, for example, that strictly prohibits the import and export of elephant ivory.

Ivory, tortoiseshell and Brazilian Rosewood are all classified as “Appendix I” –the strictest level of protection. We do not carry any CITES I materials and strongly advise against the use of any in instrument making, including Brazilian Rosewood. Just because it can be purchased domestically (CITES only has jurisdiction of products crossing borders) the likelihood of it being poached and illegally imported, and therefore an infraction against the Lacey Act, is staggeringly high. And this is true of most alleged “pre-CITES” Brazilian on the market. Probably all sellers of Brazilian Rosewood, including those advertising publicly in the US at this time, do not have requisite Lacey act and CITES documentation to prove legality. Buyer beware!

It is the CITES II materials that most concern us here at LMI. CITES II woods can be imported and exported, but not without significant paperwork, expense, and a special permit. Because of this, we are not able to ship Mahogany neck blanks outside of the U.S. Fortunately, CITES II restrictions do not apply to finished products, which makes it possible for us to send a pre-carved Mahogany neck (or a finished guitar made from Mahogany, for that matter). On most of the CITES species LMI carries, veneers are also a restricted commodity and we are unable to ship them without a special export permit and additional red tape.

The restriction against shipping shell over the border is different. It can be done, but there is a steep fee ($91 plus carrier fees at the time of this writing) demanded by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, to file a Form 3-177 and cover the inspection. Most commonly used shell products, including the ones that we carry, are not at all endangered –but there are some shell materials that are CITES restricted, hence the inspection.

Sadly, some of the most commonly used woods in instrument making are on the CITES II list: Honduran Mahogany, Spanish Cedar and almost every species of Rosewood found throughout the world. At this time (08/2016) Indian Rosewood and African Blackwood (along with some Rosewoods not used in instrument making) are not on the list, but there is a strong likelihood that they will end up there in the near future as there is a movement to include all Dalbergias (Rosewoods). This is because it is difficult for border agents to accurately distinguish between the different species of Rosewood, and misrepresenting species is one of the most common forms of smuggling. As of this writing, there are no plans in the proposal to annotate the listing meaning even finished products made from the newly listed Dalbergia species could be restricted. – Stay tuned.