Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

Sorry for the wall of text, but I’m hoping this might make things easier for us Blackwood flute and instrument players. So after much panicking on Facebook last night as I have an upcoming overseas trip in which I wanted to take my Martin Doyle Blackwood flute overseas, I though I should make a post for others to navigate all the confusion out there.

So the same regulatory body that monitors and bans the trade in wildlife parts and fauna will be listing African Blackwood and other woods of the same family in Appendix II of the CITES amendment. And while not made illegal, it will restrict and regulate the trade of the wood starting January 2nd, 2017. So what does this mean for us instrument players with new and old flutes trying to buy/sell/travel with our instruments? I scoured the Federal Wildlife Services site last night and here are some FAQs that pertain to us. This is ONLY for the US side and to be safe contact your country’s CITES officials to be sure. Here is the link:

1. Traveling across international borders with your instrument for personal purposes without getting your instrument registered: SAFE

As per their fact sheet, so long as your instrument contains LESS than 10kg of the threatened wood listed in Appendix II for NON-COMMERCIAL purposes, your Olwell or Grinter will be safe. However, we may all need to carry documentation in the future to prove our flutes are pre-2017. See #47 and #51 on the link I’ve posted.

2. Planning to resell in another country: NOPE

Sorry guys, the FS posts on C&F and if you head to a festival with an extra flute to sell, you will need a CITES permit for it to cross international borders and even for a single instrument. No more eBay or international postage on your Blackwood flutes. And even old flutes may need documentation to prove it was grandfathered before the new rules took place. Please see #21 and #53.

3. But What about all the instruments I have before the rule? How will this affect me?

From what I gather, these will be all considered Pre-Convention, therefore exempt from the new regulations that come into effect. However, this is where things get confusing and why it may be necessary to have receipts and documents from your makers to prove that your instrument was made and purchased before Jan 2nd, 2017.

5. And what about the makers? What’s going to happen going forward?

Makers in the US and Canada will have to seek CITES certification and clear a lot of new rules going forward. There are a lot of bureaucracy in order to get things shipped and bringing flutes overseas to conventions. It’s gonna be a tough road so give them some time to adjust. As for repairs, I’m not sure what this means as it could put a stop to shipping them across borders for fear of seizures. Please contact them directly and see what is being done. See #22, 23, 24, 34, 35, 36, 39, 41.

I hope this clarifies as much to what’s going on with the changes. Please share and spread the info as many of us travel overseas to festivals and workshops. Also if you know about any regulations in your home country please share as well!



Posted by .

Re: Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

Thank you very much for this information!

Re: Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

Somehow, George Orwell missed this aspect of future society.

Re: Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

LOL re George Orwell, reads like a scheme made up by bureaucrats with too much time on their hands!

Posted .

Re: Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

I have had many dealings with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), and I have some things to say about this subject. (Incidentally, I have a permambuco bow and an ebony fingerboard on my violin, and I know people who play beautiful blackwood flutes.) First, many Dalbergia species are already under CITES restriction. Judging from the first commenter, Africa Blackwood, Dalbergia melanoxylon, has been added to this list. These are very slow growing trees, and for African Blackwood, there do exist projects to try to make the logging of this species more sustainable. See and Please keep in mind that in many poorer countries the timber trade is often done by criminal groups who bride officials, and the local people are cheated. This is part of the reason there is a CITES in the first place. Furthermore, the USFWS is runned on a shoestring budget, and I think they do good work considering the resources they are given. Right now USFWS employees are very demoralized over an attack by a armed group on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, after which the attackers were acquited by a jury, because the attackers claimed they were mounting a "peaceful" protest. Anyway, maybe the best thing to do is to consider donating to one of the above organizations, so that blackwood could be delisted from CITES in the future.

Re: Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

Thanks for the other perspective, NorthEagle. These regulations sadly exist for reasons. It’s a pain if you have an instrument made of those materials, but we need to remember the bigger picture.

Re: Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

Just in case any guitar makers are reading this and feeling smug, the new regulations don’t just apply to Blackwood, they apply to ALL species of rosewood (dalbergia). That’s going to cause some major headaches in the guitar making world, because even the cheapest guitars tend to have a bit of rosewood for the bridge or fingerboard.

There is a very real problem in that the Chinese have developed a taste for furniture made from exotic timbers, and consumption of rosewood has increased 65 fold in the last ten years. I think the impact on the instrument industry is seen as collateral damage in an attempt to stop the far bigger furniture trade. I wouldn’t mind if I thought it was going to be effective, but look at what has happen with pernambuco, which has been controlled for some years now: European bow makers have been wiped out (ok, one or two still survive, using up old stock) and yet pernambuco bows are still available from China by the container load. And I think that is what will happen here - law abiding instrument makers will get hammered, while the big furniture manufacturers who are causing the problem will flout the regulations, or bribe their way past them.

Re: Changes to CITES rules for Blackwood flutes Jan 2nd 2017

Mark M - That is great a danger. The Chinese government often seems at act at cross purposes on many issues, and endangered species is one of them. The giant panda is heavily protected, and great strides have been made in recovery of the panda population. But consumers in China demand large amounts of timber from stressed-out forests from countries with weak governance, which of course means denying other people (like musical instrument makers) the use of those woods. I think there are efforts to cultivate African blackwood outside for Africa, as well as try to practice better forestry with the African stock as I mentioned above. We can only hope these efforts work.