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tiburon

Fossil Export Laws - Morocco

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tiburon

Hi guys,

 

There are obviously a lot of fossils (shark teeth, etc.) in the US and elsewhere from Morocco. So I always assumed that they must have left Morocco legally. But I recently heard that exporting fossils is technically illegal in Morocco, just isn't enforced (except for scientifically significant finds) since it's important economically to a lot of poor people in the country. Can anyone confirm this, and if so, has this always been the case? Thanks.

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WhodamanHD

My knowledge comes from hearsay so should in no way be taken as facts, but vertebrate ones are technically illegal exports I believe, but this can be interpreted  as just somewhat complete specimens. I think fossil shark teeth exports from Morocco are safe for the foreseeable future. Even in the states, places (like California and Maryland) ban vertebrate fossil collection on public land, however sharks teeth are excluded from this. 

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FossilDAWG

"Even in the states, places (like California and Maryland) ban vertebrate fossil collection on public land, however sharks teeth are excluded from this. "

I think this statement is potentially misleading.  "Public land" includes various categories of federal land (BLM, Forest Service, National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers...) and collection of vertebrate fossils including shark teeth is illegal on all such land, everywhere in the country.  State land accounts for much less acreage, but even there collection of vertebrate fossils without a permit is illegal.  Only a few states specifically exclude shark teeth from the "vertebrate fossil" category, notably Florida.  Some states (Florida and South Carolina come to mind) make collecting permits easy and inexpensive to obtain, basically just requiring that you file an annual report of what you collected, but collecting without a permit is illegal and can result in fines and other penalties.  Other states are much more restrictive.  In short, it is unwise to assume anything without checking the rules for the specific state where you want to collect.

 

Don

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WhodamanHD
16 minutes ago, FossilDAWG said:

"Even in the states, places (like California and Maryland) ban vertebrate fossil collection on public land, however sharks teeth are excluded from this. "

I think this statement is potentially misleading.  "Public land" includes various categories of federal land (BLM, Forest Service, National Park Service, Army Corps of Engineers...) and collection of vertebrate fossils including shark teeth is illegal on all such land, everywhere in the country.  State land accounts for much less acreage, but even there collection of vertebrate fossils without a permit is illegal.  Only a few states specifically exclude shark teeth from the "vertebrate fossil" category, notably Florida.  Some states (Florida and South Carolina come to mind) make collecting permits easy and inexpensive to obtain, basically just requiring that you file an annual report of what you collected, but collecting without a permit is illegal and can result in fines and other penalties.  Other states are much more restrictive.  In short, it is unwise to assume anything without checking the rules for the specific state where you want to collect.

 

Don

I will be the first to admit I am not read up on fossil law, but this is a little confusing to me for a few reasons. Douglas point (federal land) and purse/Calvert cliffs/ flag ponds state parks all allow and encourage hunting for sharks teeth and even bone. Assuming they for some reason have special exceptions, I think of collecting below mean high tide line on the bay and Potomac (public land) where people collect so labor of things from sharks teeth to whale skeletons without any permit. If it is illegal, it must rarely be enforced. Again, I am no good source of law advice.

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FossilDAWG

Some parks do allow collecting.  My point is just that blanket statements, or assumptions that if collecting vertebrate fossils is allowed at Purse it must be OK on state land everywhere, will get you into trouble.  Rules must be determined before you collect if you want to avoid trouble.

 

Don

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WhodamanHD
4 minutes ago, FossilDAWG said:

Some parks do allow collecting.  My point is just that blanket statements, or assumptions that if collecting vertebrate fossils is allowed at Purse it must be OK on state land everywhere, will get you into trouble.  Rules must be determined before you collect if you want to avoid trouble.

 

Don

I agree, and regret my previous statement for being too generalized.

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Troodon

There has been lots of social and news media noise over the exploitation of moroccan vertebra fossils like those pointed out by Tidgy's Dad.  Most of the issues I've heard about centered around articulated specimens or Mosasaur skulls and not the isolated specimens you see sold.  The fossil export trade business is a big part of their economy so it will be interesting to see if the Tucson fossil show is any different this year 

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Tidgy's Dad

It is estimated that the fossil trade provided 50,000 jobs and contributes over $40 million a year to Morocco's economy as of 2009. I am certain this has increased since then. 

I don't think the government can afford to stop it, but certain items may soon be regulated. 

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caldigger
8 hours ago, Tidgy's Dad said:

I don't think the government can afford to stop it, but certain items may soon be regulated. 

Like huge duties on wearing fez caps!

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Tidgy's Dad
Just now, caldigger said:

Like huge duties on wearing fez caps!

Yep. 

But I'll switch hats.

WIN_20170202_163351.JPG.7b8a80b85192ebff3d251ec9e42ce309.JPG

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tiburon
On 12/20/2017 at 11:03 PM, Tidgy's Dad said:

There is a law in Morocco that bans the exploitation and export of Morocco's "cultural heritage", but it's never been made clear quite what that means and this is very rarely enforced.

But sometimes : https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2017/09/228034/morocco-investigates-dinosaur-fossil-trafficking-irish-collector-brags-bone/

On the other hand : https://www.moroccoworldnews.com/2016/04/184813/group-of-moroccans-found-the-association-for-meteorite-professionals-in-erfoud-morocco/

And http://archive.aramcoworld.com/issue/200902/morocco.s.trilobite.economy.htm

The debate will continue. 

Thank you for the info, @Tidgy's Dad! Do you know when this law was passed? Other countries (like Chile and Peru) passed similar laws a decade or so ago, but as long as the fossils you own left those countries before then, you can be confident that it's 100% legal. 

 

It's unfortunate that the Moroccan law is so vague - the situation of the Irish collector getting investigated for having a ~5,000 USD Spinosaurus jaw is a little surprising. That certainly doesn't seem like a significant enough find to be an important part of Morocco's cultural heritage. There are also a number of shark tooth fossils from Morocco worth $1000-5000. Does that mean that Morocco might eventually start investigating everyone that owns one of those?

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WhodamanHD
2 minutes ago, tiburon said:

Thank you for the info, @Tidgy's Dad! Do you know when this law was passed? Other countries (like Chile and Peru) passed similar laws a decade or so ago, but as long as the fossils you own left those countries before then, you can be confident that it's 100% legal. 

 

It's unfortunate that the Moroccan law is so vague - the situation of the Irish collector getting investigated for having a ~5,000 USD Spinosaurus jaw is a little surprising. That certainly doesn't seem like a significant enough find to be an important part of Morocco's cultural heritage. There are also a number of shark tooth fossils from Morocco worth close to that much. Does that mean that Morocco might eventually start investigating everyone that owns one of those?

 

 

There have been very few other jaws of this size/quality found. Scientifically, it may be significant. As for shark teeth, they are very common (I’m not sure about 5000$ teeth other than large megs) and scientists have enough for scientific research (for the most part, this excludes certain teeth like say rare parasymphyseals) so I think you’re teeth are safe:drool:

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tiburon

Thank you for your thoughts. I just hate when laws are so vague like this, given that you don't know what is 100% ok to own and what's not. For example, I've seen large matrix pieces containing enormous Otodus/other shark teeth that would be worth in the thousands of dollars.

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Troodon

It's not going to be an issue based on the monetary value of an item.   Isolated teeth,  mortality plates or claws should not be the issue but articulated specimens that the government might want will have the greatest risk.   That Spinosaurus jaw although rare can be found at most major fossil shows and all the teeth in it were placed so it look very cool and raised attention.

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Tidgy's Dad

The law was passed in the mid-seventies and never enforced, just like many others including the laws on not smoking in public,or the selling of wild caught tortoises for example. 

However, recently the government has started enforcing laws made in the past, in the last few months they've started fining jaywalkers and punishing domestic violence, laws that were passed years ago. 

I think it is just a matter of time before they start ensuring unique, rare or scientifically important specimens are kept in the country, but, as Troodon says, the other stuff will be still available because of the money it earns and the people it employs. 

A blanket ban is very unlikely. 

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tiburon

Thanks again, great to hear information from someone in Morocco.

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capkeiwylde
On 1/19/2018 at 11:01 AM, wzoune said:

Hi, I am from morocco, i just joigned this forum, fossils can left morocco legally and without problem, i am from erfoud and we have a lot of fossils, we have a company that sells fossils locally for tourist and also we ship worldwide for friends or clients without problems but of course before doing this we must coordinate with the moroccan authority especially with Ministry of Energy and Minerals and for the shipping we use FedEx service. I hope i helped :)

Hi! I will be in Erfoud in two weeks, where is your store located? I would like to come by and have a look.

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Johannes

Hi friends,

 

we have a discussion about this four (?) years ago, where fossils were taken by french customs (a mosa jaw (a nice one) and one of that creepy 90% handmade ammonites ?), and the moroccan embassy claimed that (without a written permission) they where exported illegally. edit: link to the discussion

 

In that thread I mention, I think I have had linked an UNESCO-Paper, where international rules concerning trade of cultural property are listed, including the moroccan fossils (not rocks/Meteorites/minerals at the moment). If not, I will look for the paper again.

 

There was a more strict addition to that rule in the 200x'ies, and in international acceptance of this law, this means all fossil material without a written object-specific export-permission of the ministry responsible for cultural objects is illegal (including all KemKem Material, but single also shark/mosa teeth, partially carved ammonites, and so on). That does not mean that a lot of people in customs are interested in this topic, but when you have a very interested customs officer things can get very fast very complicated (and did so in France serveral times in the last years, and in Germany, too, since there is a law against illicit trafficing of cultural property).

 

Minerals and meteorites, by the way, are under supervision of the Ministry of Energy and Minerals, and get permissions for export much easier. NWA-dealers, will ensure you (of course) that everything will be fine with fossils you buy, but in the end it will be at your own risk. Finally in Morocco it is like you stated in the beginning:

On 19.12.2017 at 11:41 PM, tiburon said:

that exporting fossils is technically illegal in Morocco, just isn't enforced (except for scientifically significant finds) since it's important economically to a lot of poor people in the country.

 

In other countries it starts to get more complicated.

 

 

Edit: regarding restrictions about collecting natural goodies in the US, I really like this book.

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flya200

Hello All!

 

This is a very interesting topic to me, and I hope that some more experienced collectors can help with a question.

 

Next week, my wife and I will be traveling by car from Portugal, across the Mediterranean by ferry, into Morocco, and down to Alnif, for fossil Trilobite collecting with Mohand Ihmadi. 

 

I hope to return to Portugal with a very good amount (mostly) unprepared Trilobites, still in their matrix.

 

My question is, when departing Morocco by ferry, to Spain, is there a strict customs inspection of the vehicle, for fossil Trilobites, these days? Has anyone on the forum done this, recently?

 

Then too, on the Spanish side, when arriving by ferry from Morocco, are vehicles searched, and fossil Trilobites confiscated? 

 

Sorry for the vague nature of these questions, but we have never done anything like this, and are trying to fill in a lot of gaps in our knowledge, before we depart.

 

This thread has a lot of good info, but I hope for some more current experiences from forum members, who may have done something like this.

 

Thanks very much for your response!

 

 

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Kane
50 minutes ago, flya200 said:

My question is, when departing Morocco by ferry, to Spain, is there a strict customs inspection of the vehicle, for fossil Trilobites, these days? Has anyone on the forum done this, recently?

 

Then too, on the Spanish side, when arriving by ferry from Morocco, are vehicles searched, and fossil Trilobites confiscated? 

 

 

 

It would be most prudent to get in contact with border/customs officials prior to your trip to get the information directly from the source. Any experiences others may have to the negative or positive may be purely anecdotal and is no guarantee that your experience will be identical.

 

In terms of vehicle searches, it is sometimes luck of the draw. In many countries, customs officers have a fairly wide latitude of discretion in how they interpret and apply the laws for import and export of items. 

 

If fossil items are technically illegal to export without a permit, you'll increase your odds of keeping those items by filing the necessary paperwork. This would be preferable to taking your chances in doing something that may be deemed illegal, which could result in anything from seizure of items, fines, or worse.

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Tidgy's Dad

I enter Morocco from Spain on the ferry every three months or so with a small collection of fossils often including trilobites. 

I have never had any problem.

But I am a foot passenger and as Kane says, just because I haven't had a problem means little. 

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