Plans to ban illegal trade in Pernambuco will impact string players Jump to main content

Plans to ban illegal trade in Pernambuco will impact string players

A new proposal from Brazil could make the movement of Pernambuco wood, used to make stringed instrument bows, more difficult. If approved, it could affect string players worldwide by requiring a permit for them to travel internationally with their bows, as well as restricting the manufacture of new bows.

Pernambuco is vital to the bow making trade, and the International Association of Violin and Bow Makers (EILA) has said that the plan could ‘trigger unintended consequences that are not fully acknowledged in Brazil's proposals.

The ISM is working with colleagues in the industry to raise awareness of this issue. If you are a string player, please help us by taking our very short survey about your bows, which will give us a better idea of how many musicians could be affected.

What is the proposal and why will it affect the bow trade?

Brazil is proposing to move Pernambuco (Paubrasilia echinata) to CITES Appendix I in order to combat the growing illegal trade in the wood. It is currently listed in Appendix II, but with exemptions for finished bows. The ISM understands that Brazil's proposal, which will be discussed at the next CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Conference of the Parties in Panama this November, would require CITES permits for all trade and movement of both finished bows and bow wood. Obtaining permits would require proof that the wood was legally sourced and that its trade would not be detrimental to the species, both of which are difficult to prove.

The Pernambuco tree requires a particular combination of climate and soil conditions to thrive and it grows only in very restricted areas of Brazil's Atlantic Forest. Extensive deforestation of the region has meant that the tree now grows in just a few remnants of the forest representing around 5% of its original habitat.

While the ISM supports Brazil's efforts to conserve the species and tackle the illegal trade in Pernambuco, these proposals would have far-reaching consequences for both musicians and bow makers. Pernambuco is vital for bow making, as there is no suitable substitute, and the vast majority of professional string players use Pernambuco bows.

The ISM is in discussion with the UK Government about this issue and will be lobbying for exemptions to allow legal trade in bows to continue. We have released a joint statement with our colleagues in other concerned organisations (see below) and are gathering data about how many musicians will be impacted by these proposals. If you are a string player, please help us by completing our brief survey.