November 14 to 25, 2022, the 184 worldwide parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) met in Panama to participate in the 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19), where international governments set new policies that balance trade and conservation needs for plant and animal species. The agenda for the meeting included consideration of the Brazilian Pernambuco wood used to produce most bows played by professional string musicians. Talks also included opportunities to improve the CITES Musical Instrument Certificate in use by traveling musicians and orchestras.

The League of American Orchestras and global music stakeholders, alongside conservation leaders, participated in discussions to support international policies that conserve the species that have been used in making musical instruments, while also supporting ongoing use and trade in instruments that may contain wood and other material from species that are now under protection. An international collaboration of global organizations representing musicians, musical instrument makers, and other music stakeholders has been directly participating in CITES policy discussions leading up to CoP19 and advanced specific policy recommendations.

The CITES Musical Instrument Certificate is a streamlined permit that may be used for international travel with musical instruments that contain Brazilian rosewood, tortoiseshell, reptile skin, ivory, or other protected material. In partnership with CITES parties and the conservation community, music stakeholders have undertaken efforts to increase compliance with current permit requirements while simultaneously pursuing policy improvements that will alleviate unnecessary burdens. Music stakeholders pursued opportunities to streamline and harmonize the use of the Musical Instrument Certificate (PDF), and particularly sought to alleviate the many burdens associated with inspecting instruments and credentialing the permits at international ports of travel. The United States (represented at the negotiations by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) successfully led the adoption of two CITES actions that will streamline the CITES Musical Instrument Certificate in use by musicians that travel internationally with instruments. CITES policy committees will now initiate consideration of new simplified procedures and electronic permitting strategies that could be adopted at the next Conference of the Parties and would measurably improve opportunities to travel and tour with musical instruments.

Brazil proposed to list the species Paubrasilia echinata, also known as Pernambuco, at the highest level of CITES protection (Appendix I), which would have created new permit requirements for travel with all pernambuco bows used internationally, and significantly limited future commercial trade in these bows. When considering any new species proposal, the CITES parties take into consideration both the conservation status of the species and the trade impact to assess policies that can support sustainable trade. National and international organizations representing the bow-making community and musicians collaborated to ensure that the impact of any trade and travel restrictions are fully considered by CITES parties before new restrictions are adopted.

Music sector stakeholders worked in partnership with CITES parties toward a policy solution that will support the sustainability of the Pernambuco species, while also preventing unnecessary burdens (PDF) on travel and minimizing the impact on international musical commerce. The new Pernambuco policy, approved on November 25 and going into effect 90 days later, will keep the species in its current Appendix II listing, with revised rules that place CITES permit requirements on finished bows (and all Pernambuco wood) the first time it leaves Brazil (exports). Finished bows that are “re-exported” globally (meaning the bow is crossing a border after the Pernambuco wood has previously left Brazil in some form as an export) remain exempt from new CITES permit requirements. The proposal is also accompanied by a new set of action items for continued discussion and voluntary enactment in the next three years before the next CITES meeting. These recommendations include efforts to: create systems for documenting the legal origins of existing and new bows; support capacity-building for enforcement and conservation efforts within Brazil and among importing countries; and, identify plantation-grown Pernambuco that could be certified for long-term sustainable use.

The CoP19 agenda also included additional procedural recommendations and proposals to list under Appendix II of the convention the following species used in musical instruments: Handroanthus spp. (Ipe), Roseodendron spp., Tabebuia spp., Afzelia spp., Pterocarpus spp., and Khaya spp. The new controls on these species would require permits for logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets, plywood and transformed wood, but would not impose new permit requirements for travel or trade with finished products. Musical instrument stakeholders are committing to partner with CITES on crafting new annotations policies (PDF) that carefully control trade without unintended consequences for musical instruments. Procedural policy recommendations include implementation of electronic permitting protocols that could significantly streamline the issuance and use of CITES permits.

Each CITES participating country is represented at CoP19 by a governmental management authority that is also responsible for implementing CITES policies. The League will continue to keep orchestras informed about how to support conservation efforts while engaging in international cultural activity with musical instruments.

Musical Instrument Stakeholder Statements

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