MERSING: The poisonous pufferfish has proven to be the “antidote” for a former fisherman to improve his livelihood.
Kassim Hassan, 57, is earning RM100 each day from selling ornaments made of dried pufferfish.
He could make table lamps, wind chimes and other decorations, depending on the customer’s order.
Kassim also makes crafts from wood, coconut shells and turns large sea shells into decorations.“But a big disadvantage in selling crafts is that you have to conduct continuous promotions to expand your market. It’s not like selling food or drinks which people need and consume every day.
“Then one day, I remembered one technique that my late father taught me after he came home from fishing. He showed me how to dissect and clean a poisonous pufferfish, ” he said.
The first step, he said, was to carefully remove all the bones and internal organs of the fish including the flesh, leaving only the skin and the thorns.
“It’s a dirty and dangerous job. I was initially pricked by the fish bones and that left some numbness in my hand. But I got the hang of it in time and worked around it, ” he said.Kassim, who runs his trade in a shed just behind his house, said he would buy pufferfish for about RM10 each, depending on the size.
After dissecting the fish, he would insert a balloon into the fish. Then he would pump it up and dry the fish under the sun.
This, he said, was the tedious part because each fish required at least a month to be fully dried.
“I will string it up once the fish is dried, but if a customer wants a lamp, I will carve a hole in the fish belly and insert a bulb, ” he said.
Kassim said that he could only work on about 15 fish a day.
He gave up fishing after he observed a huge drop in the marine population in Mersing waters in 2015.“I was just a small-time fisherman using a small boat with a small net. Back in those days, you would not have to go out far to catch fish.
“You could easily just throw your net by the shore and earn enough for a week.
“But it is harder these days. You have to venture out into the open sea and compete with other bigger boats with larger nets, ” he said.