GIFTS OF THE SEA: Many of the items on sale are made of seashell, driftwood and other material found on the beach
MERSING: THE highly toxic puffer fish is considered a delicacy in Japan.
Here in Malaysia, the puffer fish is known as ikan buntal.
In the past, Mersing villagers believed that stuffed puffer fish can be used as a talisman to ward off evil.
Mohd Rais Salleh, a 40-year-old souvenir stall operator in Air Papan, here, said it was believed that spirits would not enter a house if a puffer fish was hung at the entrance because they feared its spines.
Rais, who has been selling stuffed puffer fish for two years, gets them from fishermen who net them by accident.
He said the fish's stomach is removed, dried, puffed up, sewn back inside the body and glazed. He said it was a tedious task, required a lot of skill, and could take several months to complete. He learned the skill from a friend.
"The stomach puffs up naturally when the fish feels threatened. The fish's liver, muscles, skin and ovaries contain an extremely powerful poison. There is no known antidote," he added.
Rais picked up the skills from a friend. He sells the puffer fish from RM30. They are popular with tourists.
Rais operates his "Sea Shell Craft N Souvenir" stall at the Air Papan Laut beach at Batu 5 Tenglu, here, daily between 10am and 10pm.
He also offers souvenir items such as brightly painted key chains.
These are made of seashell, drift wood and fish bones found on the beach. He sell three key chains for RM10.
Visitors will also find frames, seashells, coral, bookmarks, slippers, fridge magnets and T-shirts
Rais can also supply personalised souvenir items in bulk for special occasions. For details, call 019-768 8927.