Ivory Ban – What Does it Mean?

On July 6, 2016, a near-total ban on commercial trade in African elephant ivory went into effect in the United States. This federal ban only applies to elephant ivory but a few states, including California, Hawaii, New Jersey, New York and Washington, have passed laws that include walrus, mammoth and mastodon ivory. Under these laws, residents may face prosecution for buying, owning or bringing home legally acquired ivory from Alaska. The ban also has an economic impact on rural Alaska communities who use the resource, buyers of walrus, mammoth and mastodon ivory products and gift shops that sell them. The ban has caused confusion and concern among many Alaska Native ivory carvers.

Under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, Alaska Native hunters can harvest, buy and carve walrus ivory and anyone can purchase the art. Although the California measure restricts most ivory, Alaska leaders stress that the wording is not specific enough to clearly exempt traditional Alaska Native arts and crafts.

BSNC President and CEO Gail Schubert attended the first Arctic Science Ministerial, an important gathering of Arctic leaders, where she raised the issue of the purchase, sale and possession ban on ivory. She emphasized the adverse impact the ban will have on Alaska Native communities and Alaska Native artists.

BSNC shareholder and ivory carver Susie Silook spoke about the ivory ban at the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention in Fairbanks. She created an online petition which can be found at http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/protect-indigenous-alaskan.

In addition to signing the petition, you may also voice your support for by contacting your congressional delegation to let them know you support excluding legally acquired walrus, mammoth and mastodon ivory from the domestic ivory ban.

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