DIY Guitar Kits Written by: James Krueger On: Jun 6th, 2018

CITES Pt 2…..or why to take up the kazoo.

So last month we took a quick look at CITES, what it is, and where it came from. This month, let’s take a look at the potential horror story that could face you if you travel with your guitar….and if you don’t know what it’s made of, and if you can’t provide proof of manufacture date and/or purchase date….and if, well you get the picture.

The internet; as many have found out, is much like the government.  You can find many pages of information that give you an idea of the answer you are looking for, but never really nail it down.  Part of the reason for this when it comes to endangered species, is that the entire process and system is in constant flux.  New species are being listed, some are contested, some change their position in terms of the species being ‘at risk’, ‘threatened’ or ‘endangered’.  At the end of this blog, I will include a couple links you can use to get up to date info.

Well there you are…headed back down to see your college buddies in the States for a long weekend of bonfires, memories and sing-along’s.  You have your old trusted 6 string with you and are about to go through customs. All of a sudden, Jim’s (that’s me) blog jumps into your conscious mind and you start sweating…what happens if they think the fretboard is ebony, or the back and sides are Brazilian Rosewood!  Will they take my guitar?  Will I get fined?  Will I break a federal law?  The answers could be yes, yes and yes….but the good news is that chances are they won’t look.  That does NOT mean I am saying they won’t….they could.  The onus is on the person transporting the guitar to obtain the correct paper-work from the government that says it is your guitar and the materials are what they are, and that the instrument is registered so you can legally transport it across the border.  Not knowing, isn’t an excuse, and if there is an argument as to whether the rosette has white abalone or mother-of -pearl….they could take the guitar and you would be responsible to find the experts that will testify on your behalf….in US Federal Court. (Guess that ain’t happening….right?)

So there’s the horror story, except it’s not a story, it is and can be real.  It gets more complicated for manufacturers.  George Gruhn (of Gruhn’s Guitars in Nashville) says ‘Look, this thing is a nightmare….it’s cumbersome, illogical and nearly unintelligible”. But, the fact is, it is making a difference to the planet, in a good way.  Anytime we can take away the perceived value from something so that it may survive the greed and arrogance of society, plus help to stop the illegal trade in that material, it is a good thing.  Is there a possibility that we could one day have sustainable Brazilian Rosewood forests due to this?  Doubtful as most of the damage has been done, but hopefully we can save some more species from decimation.

So now for some good (or at least better) news.  There has been talk for several years (in the US at least), of creating instrument passports, but they do not exist at this time.  It would be like having a Nexus card for your guitar. Also, if you are just going to see your buddies in the States (where we started) if you use some discretion and don’t decide to take an obvious high-end guitar with you, chances are you won’t get a second look right now, but please please please use your common sense.  Even guitars that are being sent back to the manufacturer in the US for warranty work have been confiscated, so the reality is there. So maybe taking up the kazoo as my pals at The Fretboard Journal suggest, is not a bad idea.

In Canada, CITES is administered by Environment Canada, and you can get further information at If you need information on importing and exporting click here.


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