Habitat and microhabitat preferences and site fidelity of Orectolobus ornatus were assessed between September 2002 and August 2003 to assess potential suitability of marine reserves for its conservation. Of six rocky reef habitats available in the study area (sponge gardens, artificial structures, barren boulders, sand, sea grass, macroalgae), O. ornatus exhibited a significant preference for sponge gardens, artificial structures, and barren boulders habitats. Habitat preferences of males and females, and individuals <1 m and >1 m, did not differ. Orectolobus ornatus selected daytime resting positions with a high topographic complexity and crevice volume and did not select on the basis of prey availability. Habitat and microhabitat preferences may be related to the need for predator avoidance. Regular monitoring of 40 individually identified O. ornatus revealed that none was a permanent resident of the study area. Seven individuals exhibited short-term temporary fidelity to the study area; they were resighted frequently for part of an intensive 100-day survey. Remaining individuals were temporary visitors; they were resighted at most once after initial identification or returning after extended absences. Monthly population surveys confirmed the turnover of O. ornatus in the study area. The lack of long-term site fidelity suggests that small marine reserves will be ineffective as a conservation strategy for O. ornatus.
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