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Complete Ivory Ban Hits Antique Decorative Arts – Dealers Propose Reform of New Ivory Regulations

Two major antique trade groups, the Art and Antique Dealers League of America and the National Antique and Art Dealers Association of America, have responded to a newly announced Fish and Wildlife Director’s Order 210 Appendix 1 Guidance on the Antique Exception under the Endangered Species Act. The Order deals with the trade in any items, including antique and ancient items, made of materials that contain parts of endangered species, such a ivory. Along with Order 210, the Department of Fish and Wildlife issued a Directors Order Q & A which explains the changes to the rules. The two antique dealer associations have sent a joint Letter to Director Daniel M. Ashe pointing out the lack of clarity in the Order 210 documentation requirements. The language of the new regulations contains several gaps in the “antique exemption”  which make it illegal to sell any antiques containing such materials that were imported prior to 1982. American made objects, such 18th or 19th C antique silver with ivory handles or other antique objects with ivory decoration, also do not meet the antique exemption and could not be sold. Additional analysis here.

The antique dealer groups point out that the new regulations allow importation of freshly killed “sport-hunted trophies,” which appears to contradict the intent of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) legislation, whereas the regulations make it illegal to sell an object that is hundreds of years old. The letter recommends creating “an expert advisory panel to review ESA permit applications, with the twin goals of creating a transparent, licit market in ivory objects that are vetted and certified as genuine antiques (i.e., 100 years old), and discouraging the traffic in uncertified objects that lack permits.” The Advisory Panel would review the application and certify the antique status of the object.

The letter suggests that the Fish and Wildlife Service could then issue an ESA permit and record the permit in a public registry, so that every object containing ESA-listed species that is imported, exported or sold in interstate commerce is a matter of public record. The public listing would include a photograph of the object and would be used in the future to verify the legal import, export or sale of an object and prevent the sale of illicitly trafficked objects.

The new regulations also concern Native American traders who handle antique traditional objects that contain decoration with marine mammal ivory and other protected species. The regulations were based on the 2014 National Strategy for Combating Wildlife Trafficking.

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