Mukherji Bill to Combat Ivory Trafficking in New Jersey Advanced by Assembly Panel

(TRENTON) – Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Raj Mukherji to help combat ivory trafficking was advanced Thursday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-3128) prohibits anyone from selling, offering for sale, purchasing, bartering or possessing with intent to sell any ivory, ivory product, rhinoceros horn or rhinoceros horn product.
“Ivory trafficking is at the highest rate ever recorded, with an estimated confiscation of more than 41 tons of illegal ivory worldwide in 2013,” said Mukherji (D-Hudson). “Given the threat this trade poses, this bill is a simple but important step to protect all species of rhinoceros and animals with ivory teeth and tusks. E is for elephant, not extinction.”
Mukherji added, “Since our ports are a hub for illegal wildlife trade, New Jersey must do her part to close the ivory trade here. With legislation pending in New York – the largest market for ivory in the United States – we cannot allow the blood ivory trade to move across the Hudson River.”
The Hudson County Democrat noted that despite laws to protect elephants, more than 35,000 African elephants were slaughtered in 2012, and scientists expect the current levels of illegal trade in ivory may bring elephants to extinction within 20 years. Other species with ivory teeth and tusks – such as hippopotamuses, narwhals, walruses and whales – are equally threatened.
“The protection of one species may inadvertently draw poachers’ efforts to another species,” Mukherji said. “Even precious artifacts from prehistoric mammoths are also not safe and need protection from illegal ivory traffickers.”
The population of all species of rhinoceros living in the wild worldwide has dwindled to 29,000. In February, a federal ban on commercial trade of rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory focused the need to protect rhinoceros populations from poachers.
“The most effective way to discourage the illegal trafficking is to eliminate markets and profits for the traffickers,” Mukherji said. “With this bill, we’ll be making clear that New Jersey is not a market for ivory trafficking and profits for traffickers.”
The bill:
· Permits a person to convey ivory, ivory products, rhinoceros horn, or rhinoceros horn products to legal beneficiaries;
· Directs the Department of Environmental Protection to establish procedures for addressing ivory, ivory products, rhinoceros horn, or rhinoceros horn products that were obtained legally; and
· Specifies that the act of obtaining an appraisal of ivory, an ivory product, rhinoceros horn, or a rhinoceros horn product alone would not constitute possession with intent to sell.
The bill also establishes, in addition to any applicable penalties which may be imposed pursuant to The Endangered and Nongame Species Conservation Act, or any other applicable law, the following:
· For a first offense, the person would be guilty of a disorderly persons offense and fined not less than $1,000 or an amount equal to two times the total value of the ivory, ivory products, rhinoceros horn, and rhinoceros horn products involved in the offense, whichever is greater; and
· For a second or subsequent offense, the person would be guilty of a crime of the fourth degree and fined not less than $5,000 or an amount equal to two times the total value of the ivory, ivory products, rhinoceros horn, and rhinoceros horn products involved in the offense, whichever is greater.
The bill was released today by the Assembly Commerce and Economic Development Committee.