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Ocean Jacket (Nelusetta ayraudi) Photographs and Information

Also known as Sea Jacket, Chinaman leatherjacket, Yellow jacket and chunks.

Ocean jackets have a long snout and their head length is much greater than their body depth.  The anterior rays of their dorsal and anal fins are much longer than the remaining rays and there are 32-32 rays in the dorsal fin.  Adult females and juveniles are yellowish brown, with orangey or yellowish fins, and the juveniles have 1-4 longitudinal dark brown stripes along their body.  Adult males are greenish grey, sometimes with two or three dark blotches on their sides, and they have bright yellow fins.

This species of leatherjacket is considered to be endemic to Australia, although a single specimen has been reported from New Zealand.

Ocean Jackets are found from very shallow water (2m) to water as deep as 200m.   There is a tendency for their average size to increase with water depth.   Juvenile ocean jackets have been caught in seagrass, over bare sand and on rocky reefs.  Adults tend to be absent from seagrass areas.  In northern New South Wales, ocean jackets are occasionally present in reef areas, but in South Australian waters, they are common over sand and coral sea beds.

Ocean jackets spawn off South Australia between late April and early May in waters 85-200m deep, several hundred kilometres offshore.  Each season, female ocean jackets averaging 40cm total length produce about 700,000 spherical eggs measuring approximately 0.6mm in diameter when ripe.  Some large females can produce up to 2 million eggs.

Adult Ocean Jackets are carnivorous, feeding mainly on salps, gastropod molluscs, crustaceans and fish.  Fishers have reported that squid are also eaten.  Ocean jackets form loose, small schools when feeding.

The principal commercial fishery uses traps, with a wide single opening and are set at depths from 60m to 150m.  The traps are baited with rock lobster heads and set at dawn, and are retrieved about 2 hours later.  The fish are immediately headed, gutted and chilled.

Most Ocean jackets are sold as fresh trunks.  Large amounts of ocean jackets caught keeps the price low.

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Habitat:  Saltwater

Caught in shallow to deep coastal waters

Did you Know? There are more than 60 species of leatherjacket in Australian waters.

Scientific Name Nelusetta ayraudi
Location Australia Wide
Season All year round
Size To 68cm and 1.7kg
Australian Species Code 37 465006
Taste, Texture Mild to sweet taste.  Firm, dense texture.


Nutritional Information
For every 100 grams raw product
for Ocean Jacket fillet.

Kilojoules 350 (85 calories)
Protein 19.8 g
Cholesterol 11 mg
Sodium -
Total fat (oil) 0.5 g
Saturated fat 36% of total fat
Monounsaturated fat 15% of total fat
Polyunsaturated fat 49% of total fat
Omega-3, EPA 31 mg
Omega-3, DHA 113 mg
Omega-6, AA 23 mg

Angling for Leather Jacket Fish:

Saltwater Fish - What bait to use for fishing - a list of saltwater baits with the main "diners" who will be tempted.


Cooking Leather Jacket Fish:

Colour of raw fillet:

White to cream.


Firm and dense, chunky.

Fat Content:



Mild to sweet.

Leatherjackets derive their name from their skin, which should be removed before serving. This can be done after cooking, for easier and cleaner removal. Under their tough skin these fishes have a white flesh with a pleasing light flavour. The flavour is best when the leatherjacket is fresh.

Because of their firm texture, leatherjackets are very good for Thai-style curry or a stir-fry. They are also excellent for fish balls as the flesh holds together very well.

Smoking leatherjacket is an excellent method of preparation try the tea-smoked leatherjacket with avocado and frisee lettuce salad .

When baking or grilling it is advisable to prepare leatherjacket whole. Remember to incorporate lashings of lemon and cracked black pepper for better flavour and texture.

Recovery rate, fillets: 30% from whole fish

Leatherjackets are sold mainly as trunks (headed, gutted and skinned) and occasionally in fillet form (always skinned). In whole fish and trunks look for intact skin (if present), firm flesh, and a pleasant, fresh sea smell. In fillets, look for white to off-white (or pinkish in reef leatherjackets), firm, lustrous, moist flesh without any brown markings or oozing water and with a pleasant fresh sea smell.

Make sure trunks are gutted and cleaned thoroughly. Wrap trunks and fillets in plastic wrap or place in an airtight container. Refrigerate for 2-3 days or freeze for up to 3 months below -18ºC.

Cooking & Serving
Inexpensive leatherjackets are always a bargain. The average yield from whole fish is 30% due to the large, heavy head, but from trunks it’s 65%. Fillets are usually boneless, trunks usually have the backbone left in and can be cooked this way or, if large enough, cut into cutlets; the meat flakes easily away from the large bones. They are related to the highly-prized fugu fish of Japan (without any of the risk of poisoning) and the firm flesh has a mild flavour, low oiliness and is moderately moist. A versatile fish, they are good steamed, poached, pan-fried, stir-fried, deep-fried, baked, braised, grilled, barbecued or smoked. They are a good plate-sized fish cooked whole (head off) and this is the best way to bake or grill them; wrapping in foil or banana leaves helps prevent them drying out. The firm flesh works well in mousseline or minced for fish cakes and fish balls and holds together well in soups, curries and casseroles.

Microwave Cooking Times for Fish
- Fish fillets – 5 minutes per 500g on medium-high, +50 seconds more for thicker fillets, or until flesh flakes
- Whole fish - Large – 6 minutes/750g on medium
- Whole fish – Small – 3-4 minutes on medium

Easy Fish Recipes - From How To Cook Fish


Commercial Fishing for Leather Jacket Fish:

Ocean Jacket (Nelusetta ayraudi) is by far the most valuable commercial leatherjacket. It has a long, slender pale grey-brown body, often with some reddish blotches, and a relatively small spike. Caught mainly in the Great Australian Bight, it’s available year round and is the largest of the commercial Australian leatherjackets, usually 800g-1.5kg, though it can grow to 3.5kg and 76cm long.

Exporters of Leather Jacket Fish  |  Importers of Leather Jacket Fish  | 
Processors of Leather Jacket Fish  |
Wholesale Suppliers of Leather Jacket Fish  |  Seafood Agents for Leather Jacket Fish  | 





More links about Leather Jacket Fish

Australian Government - Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resource Economics and Sciences (PDF file) - Australian Fisheries Statistics 2010/2011

Commonwealth Fisheries Association - The Commonwealth Fisheries Association is committed to ensuring the commercial fishing industry is recognised for its contribution to Australia’s economy, society and environment. CFA achieves this by promoting and advocating the value of the industry and the healthy seafood it provides to the community. Commonwealth wild harvest fisheries are among the best managed and environmentally sustainable fisheries in the world. Our members are committed to managing fisheries for Australia’s food security, community well-being and healthy marine eco-systems.




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