Ocean Leatherjacket, Nelusetta ayraud (Quoy & Gaimard 1824)

Other Names: Chinaman, Chinaman Leatherjacket, Chinaman Leather-jacket, Chinaman-leatherjacket, Chunks, Leatherjonnie, Leather-jonnie, Ocean Jacket, Yellow Jacket, Yellow Leatherjacket, Yellow Leather-jacket

An Ocean Leatherjacket, Nelusetta ayraud, at Kioloa, New South Wales, March 2006. Source: Sascha Schultz / iNaturalist.org. License: CC by Attribution-NonCommercial


Females are bright yellowish-brown, with 3-4 indistinct narrow stripes along the sides and bright yellow fins. Males are a greyish-steely blue with numerous black blotches scattered along the lower abdomen, bright yellow dorsal and anal fins, and a bluish-grey caudal fin. Juveniles have 4-5 brown stripes separated by light-yellow stripes along the sides.

This large leatherjacket is common on offshore reefs, and is well known for attacking hooked fish - and the occasional unwary diver.

A school of Ocean Leatherjackets attacking a blue-ringed octopus.

Ocean Leatherjackets in the Perth Canyon.

Cite this page as:
Bray, D.J. 2020, Nelusetta ayraud in Fishes of Australia, accessed 03 Dec 2022, https://fishesofaustralia.net.au/home/species/811

Ocean Leatherjacket, Nelusetta ayraud (Quoy & Gaimard 1824)

More Info


Endemic to the southern half of Australia from about Moreton Bay, Queensland, to the Murion Islands, Western Australia, and around Tasmania. The species also occurs in northern New Zealand.
Juveniles inhabit bays, estuaries and inshore rocky reefs, often amongst seagrass beds. They move to deeper offshore waters as they mature.


Females are bright yellowish-brown, with 3-4 narrow indistinct stripes along the sides and bright yellow fins. Males are a greyish-steely blue colour with many numerous black blotches scattered along the lower abdomen, bright yellow dorsal and anal fins, and a bluish-grey caudal fin. Juveniles have 4-5 brown stripes separated by light-yellow stripes along the sides.


Feeds mostly on salps, along with gastropod molluscs, crustaceans and fishes. The species is well known for attacking fishes much larger than themselves, taking chunks of flesh from their prey with their razor sharp teeth.


Individuals mature after about 2.5 years of age. Spawning occurs during autumn and winter, with individuals forming large aggregations in offshore waters at depths of 85-200 m. Ocean Leatherjackets are broadcast spawners, with females producing up to 2 million eggs per spawning season.


A large schooling species that supports substantial commercial and recreational fisheries, usually caught at depths of 100-150 m. They are taken as incidental bycatch in trawl nets and Danish seine nets in the southern and Eastern Scalefish and Shark Fishery.


Ocean Leatherjackets are aggressive predators, and often form small feeding schools. They are notorious for attacking larger fishes hooked on offshore reefs, and have even been known to attack divers. 

Species Citation

Balistes ayraud Quoy & Gaimard 1824, Voyage autour du Monde 1: 216, pl. 47, fig. 2. Type locality: Shark Bay, Western Australia.


Bray, D.J. 2020


Atlas of Living Australia

Ocean Leatherjacket, Nelusetta ayraud (Quoy & Gaimard 1824)


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Quick Facts

CAAB Code:37465006

Conservation:IUCN Least Concern

Depth:0-360 m

Fishing:Commercial, recreational fish

Habitat:Bays, estuaries, offshore waters

Max Size:100 cm TL

Species Maps

CAAB distribution map