What information about endangered species is unethical to share?

PLOS has announced a new policy that “authors must make all data publicly available, without restriction, immediately upon publication of the article”. One of the examples for exceptions to this rule is “specific information relating to endangered species” that may be unethical to share. What kind of information are they referring to, besides specific locations of members of endangered species?

Locations of individuals, or of congregatory areas, would be the main kind. It might also include information on how best to attract or catch them.

How much a live specimen would fetch in country XXXXX.

The people in the endangered species trade probably have a much better idea of that than the researchers.

There has been agreement within botanical circles to keep specific locations for certain endangered cacti and succulents out of the general public’s knowledge. The purpose is to protect the plants from collecting. In the past there have been several examples of all plants of a particular taxon in the wild being collected; when those plants are gone, the only living examples are usually in the hands of botanical collections or amateur hobbyists.

So in this case the information is withheld from the general public to protect the remaining wild populations at the expense of freedom of knowledge. That is an ethical decision being applied to a real life example.

However, the field data for these plants is available to botanists/scientists/governmental agencies.

Many, if not most, of the top-10 tallest trees in the US/world have undisclosed locations. The state or the forest is named but the exact location is often kept secret.

ethics is about being wrong even when you are right.

So Slander, and libel , and perhaps information that was obtained by some sort of unethical process - eg “We told the tribe that the liver was the best part to eat, and 50% of them died… They died because the liver is actually toxic.”.

Dick Cheney has 10 trees named after him?

:dubious: Really? Why? Are tall trees somehow “endangered”? Are they at risk of being stolen, or felled, if people know where they are?

The location of “General Sherman”, the largest (not tallest, although probably one of the tallest) tree on Earth, is well known.

Extreme height and extreme age are both endangered it seems.

Sherman IS well known but newer discoveries aren’t that famous as tourist attractions. That’s what their discoverers seem to want.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but how is saying “The Cloudpiercer Pine is in Bumfondle National Park but its exact location is a secret” acheiving anything when all anyone who really cares has to do is walk into said park and look for the tallest tree (ie the one that’s towering above all the other trees?)

Redwood National Park is 112K mountainous acres with very few roads. You can’t just see across it.

<speculating>Perhaps it is unethical to share that the population of an endangered species has increased from 50 individuals to 58. Some in the public could interpret it as a reason to hunt them again, or to pressure their lawmakers to remove them from the endangered species list.</speculating>

No, that sort of information is publicly available, Heracles, for example, the California Least Tern’s listing status is highly dependent on the specific numbers of terns (see here, for example) and the same thing is true for the Southern Sea Otter and the Florida Panther. Colibri got it, while you can safely tell the public how many individuals or breeding pairs of an endangered species there are, you can’t safely tell the public where specifically those organisms are or where they congregate.

If you want to find the really big trees in the Congaree Swamp, which holds some of the biggest remaining east of the Mississippi, you have to get in a canoe. I suggest a guide. Because it’s a really big swamp. Full of swampy stuff like water moccasins and wild boars. Thus the name. (It’s not like these places are flat plains and if you just got tall enough you’d see the special tree towering over all the other ones. There’s terrain, it goes up and down.)

Even if you didn’t have to get in a canoe, because swamp, there aren’t any roads.

Yes, but a casual mention in an article might serve to attract others to become involved in the endangered species trade, which I could see having ethical problems with.

Too much visitation could compact the soil beneath them, for one example, or people might take pieces of bark or branches. And never underestimate what people might do as vandalism or perhaps to make a political statement. Even large trees could be easily killed by girdling them.

The location of the General Sherman has been very well known for many years, so there is no point in keeping it secret. (It’s nowhere near the tallest tree anyway.)

The actual tallest trees are not necessarily easy to identify, since they often grow in rugged terrain where the ground and the top of the tree can’t be seen at the same time until you’re right next to them. I believe some of them may have first been located through aerial surveys. Have you ever tried to locate the tallest tree in a dense forest? It’s very difficult from the ground even on level terrain. The tree with the thickest trunk may not be the tallest.

In practice it doesn’t work that way. Conservation organizations and scientific researchers often publish this information, and it can be found with a simpleGoogle Search. Anyone interested in the trade can very easily find the information. It’s like revealing that selling illegal drugs is lucrative.

And here I am wasting my time in grad school!

What possible relevance does defamation law have here?

How utterly, utterly, delicious they are.