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Fossil Walrus Ivory & Marine Mammal Products

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FOSSIL WALRUS IVORY, OOSIK AND OTHER MARINE MAMMAL PRODUCTS, have been a difficult category to sell under on eBay.  There is much public confusion as well as personal frustration. Ebay has rules for selling that recognize the constraints of the law, but are actually more restrictive that the law. That is eBays right, and they try their best to make their policies clear regarding the items.

NOTE : FEBRUARY 22, 2007 - AFTER MONTHS OF TRYING TO GET EBAY TO REMOVE THE GUIDE POSTED BY HOMETOWN888, I DECIDED TO UPDATE THIS ONE AND ASK FOR YOUR ASSISTENCE.  I WROTE THIS GUIDE, IT WAS ORIGINALY POSTED OVER A YEAR AGO, AND SOME GUY NAMED HOMETOWN888 COPIED IT WORD FOR WORD, HE STOLE IT, AND HE POSTED IT AS HIS GUIDE, HERE ON EBAY. HE HAS ALSO STOLEN OTHER GUIDES AS WELL. HE IS NO LONGER AN ACTIVE EBAY MEMBER, BUT EBAY WILL NOT RESPOND TO MY EFFORTS TO HAVE HIS STOLEN GUIDE REMOVED. PLEASE HELP BY REPORTING HIS GUIDE (NOT THIS ONE)  AS AN UNAUTHORIZED USE OF TEXT.  YOU CAN DO SO BY SEARCHING GUIDES FOR MARINE MAMMAL PRODUCTS. WHEN THE TWO GUIDES COME UP, CLICK ON THE ONE WITH HIS NAME, HOWETOWN888, YOU WILL BE ABLE TO "REPORT THIS GUIDE"  IF YOU ARE LOOKING AT IT. (SEPTEMBER 20, 2007 - STILL TRYING TO GET EBAY TO REMOVE THE STOLEN GUIDE) THANKS FOR READING THIS, NOW ON WITH MY GUIDE.....

Our hope is to clarify the confusion and misunderstanding on both the buyer and seller ends of this subject. We also sincerely believe that ebay is trying very hard to deal with this very confusing subject.

There are two distinct differences between the policies of eBay and laws governing the Federal Fish and Wildlife Services (FWS) . If you are familiar with them both, it will help you understand why auctions are pulled "pulled of the blue".  It will also help those of you who report auctions as conflicting with ebays policy on marine mammal products, to do so correctly.  False reports, even if well intended, cause monetary loss to sellers who work hard to write and list their items. There are distinct requirements set forth by both eBay and Federal law. Whether or not you agree with the policy is not the issue here, education is.

A SHORT (Yes it really is the SHORT version) SYNOPSIS OF U.S. FWS RESTRICTIONS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE INTERNATIONAL C.I.T.E.S. AGREEMENT AND THE MARINE MAMMAL PROTECTION ACT - WITH REGARD TO THE SALE OF ANIMAL PARTS FROM WALRUS, WHALE, POLAR BEAR, SEAL, AND SEA OTTER -

The possession and sale of marine mammal parts / products, specifically animals taken or killed AFTER 1972, and with regard to protected and endangered species, is limited by law. This law addresses both possession and transport of said items. (Marine mammal parts that are PRE-1972 have different rules)

In the U.S., Alaska Natives have a legal right to hunt for some marine mammals that are protected (not endangered). They have a SUBSISTENCE right to hunt walrus, whales, polar bear, seal and sea otter. (There are some restrictions on the amount of game they can take however). Because they hunt under a SUBSISTENCE law and not a SPORT hunting law, they have the right to possess and to make Handicrafts out of portions of those marine mammals. Their handicrafts may be sold within the United States. Items include, but are not limited to: walrus ivory carvings, whale baleen baskets, dolls with ivory faces and fur clothing using furs such as polar bear, polar bear claws, seal and sea otter.

Ebay recognizes this special status and allows Alaska Native Handicrafts using marine mammal materials to be sold on their auction site. 

Marine mammals that died before 1972 do not fall into the same protected status, and Non-Alaska Natives may use, sell and possess marine mammal parts that meet the standard of Pre-1972.  There are of course other caveats to this seemingly simple statement.  Any qualifying marine mammal part or product from that time, MUST have been in private possession PRIOR to 1972.  What does that mean?  Good question. 

Many people have items they either personally obtained prior to 1972, or received from a friend, relative, purchased from someone who had legal possession etc.  Estate sales are a source of "Pre-Act" items.  There is no differentiation between "raw material" and Alaska Native handicraft" in "Pre-Act" marine mammal products as far as Federal law is concerned  ...... HOWEVER .... Ebay DOES make a distinct difference between the two, and DOES NOT ALLOW ANY MARINE MAMMAL PRODUCTS TO BE SOLD UNLESS THEY ARE AUTHENTIC ALASKA NATIVE HANDCRAFTS.    For "Pre-Act" materials this means "raw material" may not be sold, but "ARTIFACTS" may, because they are in fact, Alaska Native Handicrafts, made prior to 1972; even hundreds to thousands of years ago.  The law continues on to make specific reference to materials origins...... If the pre-act "raw materials" come from Federal Land, most of the time it is not legal to even pick them up. Specifically artifacts may not be removed from Federal Land, and in Alaska the State Law also extends that prohibition. Marine mammal parts such as fossil walrus ivory or whalebones  MAY be picked up under certain circumstances, and MUST be registered with the appropriate governmental agency, however, at no time may the items be sold. Having an unregistered item taken from state or federal land, in your possession may be a crime.

One of the reasons you see most items advertised as coming from St. Lawrence Island, Alaska is because it is an IMPORTANT LEGAL DISTINCTION.  The U.S. Government, in the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, gave certain lands of the State of Alaska to various Alaska Native groups of people, and it is now PRIVATE LAND.  There are many such areas on the mainland of the state, surrounded by both state and federal lands.  St. Lawrence Island, is 100% PRIVATE NATIVE LAND, and the owners of that land are the (shareholder) Siberian Yupik Eskimo Alaska Natives who live there. Everything on the island that existed there PRIOR to 1972 was in their possession when the Marine Mammal Protection act went into effect in 1972, belongs to them now, and legally qualifies as having been in private possession. There is no confusion about whether or not an item came from state or federal land if it is from St. Lawrence Island, as there is none. Raw materials such as fossil walrus ivory, fossil walrus bones, fossil seal bones, fossil polar bear teeth, etc. are ALL legal for sale in the United States of America. This does not mean that eBay chooses to allow the items for sale. In fact they specify they will only allow those items that are Authentic Alaska Native Handicrafts to be sold. People have lived on St. Lawrence Island for thousands of years, and the artifacts they left behind are legally dug by their descendants... the owners of the land, and sold on the open market. You may often see a disclaimer similar to the following, that is a legal statement regarding the origin of items from St. Lawrence Island.  "Pre-1972 Fossil walrus ivory or artifact from the private Fee-Simple lands of St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, NO ANTIQUITY LAWS APPLY".

Many eBay sellers have put raw materials up for auction that are "Pre-Act" 'raw material'.   One of the most common references to this kind of material is the term FOSSIL WALRUS IVORY.  When an auction such as that is identified and reported as being in non-compliance with eBay policies, it is pulled.  Just because an earlier auction of the same item may have been successful, does not mean it complied, it just means no one noticed or reported it to eBay.  Do not be discouraged, only list items that fall under the policy, and even if it is pulled, it can be re-instated. The process that eBay offers is a bit confusing to use, but it can be done.

It is also very important to know that marine mammal products also have clear laws regarding shipping out of the U.S.  Many sellers are confused about this, and offer worldwide shipping. Buyers beware, there is NO INTERNATIONAL TRANSPORTATION WHAT-SO-EVER  of whale products. Walrus products MUST HAVE A United States C.I.T.E.S. Permit to be shipped out of the U.S. legally, and many countries require their own C.I.T.E.S. permit for entry. Any item caught leaving the U.S. without an accompanying C.I.T.E.S. permit is subject to confiscation, and the sender a possible fine or jail sentence.    These permits cost $100 to apply for, and take at least 2 months, and we have had them take as long a 5 months to obtain. There is also a $55 inspection fee at the port of exit, paid to U.S. FWS inspectors prior to the item being shipped. They must provide another form to accompany the C.I.T.E.S. permit prior to shipping.  Aside from the C.I.T.E.S. permit, a Federal import/export license is usually requierd. That is another $55 per year.

Our hope is to clear up some of the confusion about marine mammal products for sale on eBay.  Please be aware of the listing rules and understand them prior to listing. If an item has any marine mammal product in it, and it is not an alaska Native Handicraft, it does not comply with eBays listing requirements, period.  It may be completely legal to sell, but that does not make it fit within eBays policies.

 

Bear and Raven goes to St. Lawrence Island several times each year and buys fossil walrus ivory, fossil whalebones, fossil polar bear teeth, Siberian Yupik Eskimo artifacts and modern Alaska Native handicrafts.

 

 

 


 
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