US Fish and Wildlife aims to clarify rules on sale of otter pelt handicrafts

What does "substantially altered" mean when it comes to the legal selling of sea otter pelts by Natives to non-Natives? The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is trying to establish a more specific definition of the term but is being met by objections from crafts makers, reports CoastAlaska radio.

Fish and Wildlife’s Bruce Woods says artisans can make mittens, hats, gloves, purses and scarves. But it prohibits some larger items.

“If someone simply drew a picture on the back of a tanned sea otter hide and attempted to sell that as significantly altered, someone who was running a souvenir factory conceivably could buy those hides and turn them into a whole series of little otter dolls and sell them in competition (with) people who are doing the work as a handicraft,” Woods says.

Woods says Native craftspeople could work in cooperatives or other groups. But they could not use extensive mechanization or divide tasks in anything like an assembly line.

Crafters say the proposed changes came "out of the blue" after they had been working to draft their own proposal. 

Read more at KCAW: Draft otter handicraft rules face scrutiny