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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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