Pictured:- A 19th century scrimshaw, decorated with a beau and his weeping woman, 16 cm, tip A/F. sold at Spicer's Auctioneers £420 Hammer.

The Ivory Team at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) announced last week that the trade in ivory from narwhal, killer whale, sperm whale and hippopotamus will be subject to much stricter controls from around September 1.

However, an unexpected omission is that items made from walrus ivory will not be included in the legislation.

While the Ivory Act came into force in June 2022 for elephant ivory, a consultation was launched in 2021 to discuss extending the ban to include other mammals. After the proposal was approved in May 2023 (much to the chagrin of the British trade associations) the parliamentary process has taken 13 months.

These four species are already listed under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES) and previously only items older than 1947 could be traded.

However, this new regulation goes much further. The effective ban will nullify the trade in narwhal tusks and scrimshawed sperm whale (physeter macrocephalus) teeth by sailors in the 18th and 19th century.

As most of these works of art were made using solid ivory, very few would be eligible for registration under the so-called ‘de minimis’ exemption that permits the sale of pre-1947 objects made with less than 10% of ivory. Only a small handful of items made pre-1918 could expect to be exempt as objects ‘of outstanding artistic, cultural or historical value’.

Other whale products such as baleen and bone are not part of the extension and (contrary to previous indications) nor is walrus ivory. It is understood that changes to the rules on walrus would interfere with existing legislation covering the trade of seal products.

At the time of the consultation in 2021, the antiques trade made the same arguments against the proposed laws concerning marine ivory it had made for elephant ivory: that it would imperil the survival and scholarship of historic works of art and do little to protect wildlife. Modern scrimshaw carvings and narwhal tusks are of little interest to collectors. However, the trade secured no concessions.

Prior to the ban on these four species coming into effect around September 1 (subject to parliamentary procedure), Defra will update the guidance and registration system.

However, under the Ivory Act 2018, antiques containing ivory are exempt from the trading ban only under four narrow conditions that apply to the four additional species.

The exemptions are:

• Pre-1947 items containing less than 10% ivory by volume.

• Pre-1975 musical instruments containing less than 20% ivory by volume.

• Pre-1918 portrait miniatures with a surface area of no more than 320 sq cm.

• Pre-1918 items deemed of outstanding artistic, cultural or historical value.

The registration process for de minimis and portrait miniature exemptions costs £20 per item or £50 for a group of objects (up to a maximum of 20). Owners wishing to sell a pre-1918 ivory item of outstanding artistic, cultural or historical value must pay a fee of £250 and submit details to a commit tee of museum specialists for assessment.

Further information:-Dealing in items containing ivory or made of ivory - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)