The majority of fine bows used by musicians worldwide are made from Paubrasilia echinata  (Pernambuco)wood. The quality of these bows is integral to the quality of music performed for listeners internationally. For this reason, musicians, bowmakers, performing arts organizations, and listening audiences value the Pernambuco tree as an essential resource. The music community supports conservation efforts that will ensure the long-term sustainability of this wood, and supports Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) action that will responsibly regulate trade in Pernambuco, while also protecting essential international cultural activity.

Protected Species Rules for Pernambuco Bows

The League of American Orchestras, in partnership with the American Federation of Musicians, International Alliance of Violin and Bow Makers for Endangered Species, International Federation of Musicians, Pearle* Live Performance Europe, NAMM, and other international music sector partners has released Know Your Bow: Tips for Owners and Users of Pernambuco Bows. This online guide will be continuously updated and offers essential information following the most recent deliberations on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) regarding the sustainability of the Brazilian wood used in most professional and advanced student bows for stringed instruments. While travel and trade with finished Pernambuco bows once outside of Brazil are not subject to CITES permit requirements, bow owners and users can use the guide to learn how to take important voluntary actions to support sustainable plantations of Pernambuco and conservation efforts, document basic facts about the wood used in their bows, and be informed consumers.

CITES Policy Discussions Underway

The 184 worldwide parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meet on a continuing basis to participate in the Conference of the Parties (CoP), where international governments agree to new policies that balance trade and conservation needs for plant and animal species. The League partners with more than 50 other international music organizations, conservation organizations, and global governmental representatives to seek solutions that protect the opportunities for travel and trade internationally with bows, while also supporting essential conservation measures. At the 2022 CITES meeting, negotiators settled on adding the tree to the endangered species list, but applying the listing only to “logs, sawn wood, veneer sheets…,” specifying that finished bows that are transported internationally would not be subject to CITES permit and certification requirements. At the 2022 CITES meeting, Pernambuco was placed under heightened restrictions, requiring that all Pernambuco wood, including finished bows, must be accompanied by a CITES permit the first time the wood is exported from Brazil, while exempting finished bows already outside of Brazil from the permit process.

Essential Conservation Efforts

It is important to note that the issue of conserving the Pernambuco tree remains. To preserve the ability of musicians to travel with their bows—and to sustain the long-term viability of this important natural resource—orchestras can participate in the conservation effort.

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