Last year California became the third state in the country to pass legislation (Assembly Bill 96) making the ivory market there illegal, which is one of the three largest ivory markets in the United States. However, in December of last year, a “nonprofit” called the Ivory Education Institute, swiftly filed suit in California Superior Court claiming that the bill is preempted by federal law, violates the dormant commerce clause, and also constitutes a taking by effectively destroying the market for ivory in California. The case is currently making its way through the court system.
Compliance with Wildlife Laws: It is a Crime to Own, Sell, or Transport Ivory Products in California
While A.B. 96 is a new take on banning a wildlife trafficked product, most people do not realize that ivory is already illegal to purchase or own in California. This means that it is a crime to own ivory-based products.
Current California law allows the purchase and sale of ivory imported prior to 1977, but it has been nearly impossible to enforce any bans because most people cannot tell when and where a piece of ivory was procured. In fact, last year, the Natural Resources Defense Council commissioned a study concluding that 90% of the ivory for sale in California was probably illegal under existing law. Many ivory dealers have been falsely aging their ivory to make it appear to look old.
AB. 96 closes the ‘1977’ loophole by banning the “sale, offer for sale, possession with intent to sell, and importation with intent to sell “[any’] ivory of elephant, mammoth, narwhal, whale, walrus, and hippo.” It also includes rhinoceros horn products. Fish and Game Code §2022. This has the effect of banning nearly all ivory going in and out of California. The law also increases penalties to up to $50,000 or twice the value of the goods, “whichever is greater,” and up to one year imprisonment. The law contains limited exceptions for antique musical instruments that have proper documentation showing they’re old and antique objects comprised of less than 5% ivory.
While A.B. 96 is one of the most monumental laws to protect endangered species, California also has some pretty strong anti-poaching laws. Poaching is defined as “the illegal take of fish and wildlife” which can occur during or out of hunting season, or fishing. For example, the penalty for poaching deer in California is a maximum of six months in county jail and a $1,000 fine. Continue reading