Alaska Public Media

Davis Hovey, KNOM – Nome

Ivory ring carved and signed by King Island carver John I. Kokuluk. (Photo by Emily Russell, KNOM – Nome)

Senate Joint Resolution 4 passed through the Alaska Senate unanimously today.

Sixteen senators voted yes to SJR4 which urges Congress to exempt legally obtained walrus, mammoth and mastodon ivory from other laws that ban ivory. Currently, the states of New York, California, Hawaii and Washington have their own legislation that bans the possession and distribution of all ivory.

SJR 4 was sponsored by Senator Donny Olson of Golovin, who said in a written statement, “while I understand the intention of some states to stop the atrocious poaching of African Elephants for Ivory, there exists a distinguishing feature between Alaskans who use the byproducts of harvest and those who go out to poach elephants.”

The Marine Mammal Protection Act protects Alaska Natives’ rights to harvest walrus and use the animal to create handicrafts for sale in the U.S. Despite these protections, local and regional, entities such as Kawerak, have pushed for this resolution to prevent what they see as harmful effects on the Alaska ivory market, due to a lack of understanding.

Senate Joint Resolution 4 has been sent to the Alaska House of Representatives for consideration.