Marine organism activities


​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Guideline review date: 28 October 2021

​This guideline is provided to support schools in implementing the managing risks in school curriculum activities procedure.

The CARA planner must be used for the specific school context in conjunction with this guideline considering additional risks, hazards and controls and including environmental, facility, equipment and student considerations.​

For activities beyond the scope of this guideline, complete a CARA record using the CARA generic template.

Activity scope

This guideline relates to student participation in activities involving marine organisms (e.g. dissecting​ marine specimens, bait gathering, fishing, preparing marine organisms for consumption) to support curriculum delivery. This activity may involve the use of a range of equipment (e.g. sharp tools, fishing tackle, heating equipment).​

Depending on the scope of this activity, other risk assessments may be required when planning. Curriculum activities encompassing more than one CARA guideline (e.g. swimming in locations other than pools, power boating) must comply with the requirements of all CARA guidelines appropriate to the activity.

Rock fishing (fishing from rocky outcrops into the sea) is not permitted.

For curriculum activities involving biological material (e.g. studying biological specimens in a laboratory), consult the biological activities activity guideline.

For curriculum activites involving the introduction of agents or conditions that may contaminate food, consult the food experimentation​ activity guideline.

For activities conducted at a non-Department of Education venue, and/or when engaging external expertise, request written risk assessment advice and attach it to this CARA record.

For activities conducted off-site, schools must comply with the ​ school excursions procedure.​​

Low risk
Activities at low risk locations (e.g. at the tideline) and/or with low risk equipment (e.g. yabby pump) and/or marine organisms that pose insignificant risk to most people (e.g. most starfish, sea cucumbers, plankton, most shells, molluscs).
Medium risk
Activities at medium risk locations (e.g. on a jetty) and/or with medium risk equipment (e.g. single hooks, bait nets) and/or organisms that may cause a minor injury (e.g. spiny fish, prawns, crayfish, barbless rays).
High risk
Activities at high risk locations (e.g. in or on water) and/or with high risk equipment (e.g. multiple hooks, lures) and/or organisms that may cause a serious injury (e.g. Crown-of-thorns starfish, diadema urchins, fire corals, bluebottles, mud crabs).​
Extreme risk
Activities at extreme risk locations (e.g. known crocodile habitats), night activities and/or with extreme risk equipment (e.g. drag nets) and/or organisms that may cause a major or fatal injury (e.g. cone shells, Irukandji, sea snakes, box jellyfish, blue-ringed octopus, stone or lion fish).

Activity requirements

If any requirement cannot be met, the activity must not occur.

If any other safety recommendation cannot be met, modify the activity (or elements of it) and/or identify and use the hierarchy of controls to implement alternative control measures to meet or exceed the minimum safety standard.

Schools must comply with animal welfare legislation. Consult the department’s animals in education webpage. Comply with animals in Queensland state schools procedure when handling live animals.

All organisms that cannot be positively iden​tified by a qualified adult supervisor are to be considered potentially hazardous.

Obtain any approvals, permits or safety advice from the local authority (e.g. lifeguards, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, property owners), if relevant.

Schools must prevent and manage infection control in accordance with the infection control procedure​. Utilise the infection control guideline​ for practical implementation advice.

Unfamiliar activities (e.g. from online sources) must be trialled without students to identify foreseeable hazards and plan safety processes. Do not proceed if risks of the activity outweigh educational outcomes.

Include any additional information used to support student safety in the activity (e.g. resources from standard operating procedures from Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee's forms and publications​, published experiments/activities or online risk assessment tools) on the CARA record.


Parent consent (DOCX, 306KB) is required for all activities conducted off-site and for extreme risk activities conducted on-site. It is strongly recommended for high risk activities conducted on-site.


Principals make final supervision decisions for the activity. Sufficient adult supervision must be provided to manage the activity safely (including emergency situations).

For activities with students with a medical condition or disability that may impact on safety during the activity, consultation with parents is required prior to allocating supervision to determine the impact of students’ medical condition or disability on safety during the activity.

The number of adult supervisors required to fulfil emergency and supervision roles must consider the nature of the activity, students' ages, abilities and specialised learning, access and/or health needs.

Before the activity, all adult supervisors must be familiar with the contents of the CARA record.

During the activity, all adult supervisors:

  • must be readily identifiable
  • must closely monitor students with health support needs
  • must comply with control measures from the CARA record and adapt as hazards arise
  • must suspend the activity if the conditions become unfavourable (e.g. poor visibility,extreme temperatures,).

Follow the relevant standard operating procedures from Queensland Schools Animal Ethics Committee's forms and publications to maintain the duty of care associated with any use of an animal.

Do not handle organisms that cannot be positively identified by a qualified adult supervisor. Refer to dangerous marine life and the Queensland Museum for information on toxic and dangerous Australian marine animals.

Confirm the suitability of any species intended for human consumption. Consult protected and no-take species and Ciguatoxic fishes.

Additionally for high and extreme risk activities:

Confirmation of student water safety and swimming competence is required prior to participation for students entering, or at risk of entering, water. The process is determined by the school and must consider the specific aquatic environments in which the activity will take place. Consult the sequence of competency water safety and swimming education program for support in determining age-appropriate suitability.

All adult supervisors appropriately dressed to perform an immediate rescue at all times. At no time should students be relied upon to recover a person in difficulty.

Comply with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ recreational fishing rules, e.g. catch limits, closed waters when conducting fishing and/or bait gathering activities.

Supervisor qualifications

Principals make final decisions in determining supervisor capability (competence, relevance and currency) and are responsible for encouraging and enabling school-based activity supervisors to raise their qualifications to improve safety standards.

All adult supervisors must comply with the working with children authority—Blue Cards procedure and be able to identify, and respond to, risks or hazards that may emerge during the activity.

A registered teacher must be appointed to maintain overall responsibility for the activity.

At least one adult supervisor is required to be:

  • A registered teacher, or other adult supervisor working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with competence (knowledge and skills) in recognising, and responding to, toxic and dangerous marine organisms and in handling marine organisms relevant to the level of risk identified.

  • For activities where students enter, or are at risk of entering water:

  • A registered teacher with demonstrated ability to perform rescues appropriate to the location. Examples of demonstrated ability include:
    • qualifications in physical education or similar
    • a current statement of attainment from a registered training organisation (RTO) or governing sporting body covering SISCAQU002—perform basic water rescues unit of competency
    • a current bronze medallion appropriate to the activity environme
    • or another method determined by the principal; or
  • An adult supervisor, working under the direct supervision of a registered teacher, with a current bronze medallion appropriate to the activity environment.

Facilities and equipment

The qualified adult supervisor of the activity, in consultation with the principal, determines the requirements for facilities and equipment appropriate to the local context.

Location must be suitable for the activity being undertaken to ensure safe participation and that safety rules and procedures can be followed. Undertake a reconnaissance of new or infrequently used locations to ascertain suitability. Refer to Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for zoning and permits.

Activities on rocky outcrops (e.g. specimen collection) must consider environmental factors (e.g. tides, rock stability) when determining an appropriate location for the activity.

Provide hygienic facilities if food is to be prepared for human consumption (refer to the food experimentation activity guideline).

Field guides, charts and/or keys must be consulted to correctly identify species.

Consult chemicals in curriculum activities for support in assessing the risks of chemicals used with/by students in curriculum activities.

If a CARA record is required in OneSchool, a summary of chemicals, plant, equipment and/or materials used in the activity must be provided by entering directly onto the CARA record in OneSchool or by attaching a summary. Sample templates are provided on chemicals in curriculum activities and plant, equipment and materials in curriculum activities.

Schools must maintain, store, transport and dispose of biological material appropriately (e.g. use clinical and related waste guideline). Such materials include but not limited to: live animals (e.g. worms, fish), biological material (e.g. specimens), wastes (e.g. paper towel, gloves) and used instruments (e.g. dissection boards, tongs).

Participants must wear personal protective equipment as relevant (e.g. enclosed footwear with thick soles, safety gloves, personal flotation device).

Other personal protective equipment appropriate to the activity may include lab standard eye protection, appropriate face protection (e.g. mask to protect against airborne toxins, eye protection when casting during fishing).

First aid equipment and consumables, as required. All emergency equipment and processes (e.g. eye wash unit) must be functional.

Equipment and tools must be well-maintained, transported safely (e.g. using a protective cover) and stored appropriately. Conduct a visual inspection of equipment to identify damage and remove from use.

Clean up equipment as necessary (e.g. dustpan, waste bags, spill kit, disinfectants).

Common hazards and controls

Further to those listed, include any additional hazards and control measures considering the local context of the activity.

Environmental hazards Control measures

Animal bites/diseases
Stings, poisoning, infection

Advise students not to handle marine organisms until explicitly instructed by the qualified adult supervisor. Avoid contact with marine creatures where spines may inject poison or break off and cause infection and/or bites may be poisonous.

Treat all wounds and bites immediately for infection control.

If participating outside:

Adhere to established practices regarding the use of insect repellent, outlined in insect viruses and allergies.

Continually assess threat of dangerous marine organisms appropriate to the location. Immediately move the participants to a safe location if dangerous marine organisms are detected or suspected.

Respond appropriately to approaching wildlife.

Biological material

Wash hands and other contaminated areas of the body with soap and water before leaving the activity site.

Clean tools and equipment following use to reduce the risk of contamination or accidental exposure.

Dispose of hazardous biological materials using a double-bagging technique.

Label and date all specimens and samples for storage. Refrigerate as necessary. Dispose within appropriate timeframes.

Environmental conditions
Weather, surfaces, surrounds

When participating outside:

Ensure access to waterways is available for emergency vehicles.

Follow the school's sun safety strategy.

Assess weather (Bureau of Meteorology) and environmental conditions prior to participation.

Follow the managing excessive heat in schools guidelines when participating in very hot or extreme heat conditions.

Ensure drink breaks occur regularly. Make water available for individual participants between drink breaks.

Ensure warm clothing is prepared for cold weather conditions. Monitor participants for cold related illness (e.g. hypothermia).

When participating at night:

Provide appropriate lighting/illumination

Facilities and equipment hazards
Control measures

Faulty or dangerous equipment

Comply with recreational fishing rules for all fishing equipment.

Check equipment for damage before and during the activity.

Comply with control measures provided on the SOP or manufacturer’s instructions. See the plant, equipment and materials in curriculum activities template for details of specific risk management practices.

Check jetties for tripping hazards such as loose boards and protruding nails.

Consider using flattened barbs on hooks.

Provide specific safety instruction for fishing activities, including:

  • strong fishing equipment safely when traveling to and from the fishing location
  • handling hooks and fishing knives
  • spacing between participants
  • casting safely to consider proximity to others
  • removing hooked fish safely (using different types of hooks and lures).

Hazardous chemicals

Comply with control measures for preparation, use and disposal of chemicals provided on the vendor SDS in the school Chemwatch manifest and/or safety instructions on the product label. See the chemicals in curriculum activities template for details of specific risk management practices for each Chemwatch hazard colour rating.

All chemicals required for the decontamination processes must be arranged in advance and be readily available.

Heat sources and radiation

Hot plates, fire, steam

Only appropriately-qualified adult supervisors may manage radiation sources and equipment (e.g. fires, stovetops). Establish and implement an exclusion zone away from radiation.

Clearly identify hot surfaces and allow to cool before being returned to storage.

Manage heat sources and/or combustible substances safely. This includes, but is not limited to: using only small quantities of combustible substances, keeping combustible or toxic substances away from naked flames.


Dispose of waste according to established safety procedure as soon as possible after the activity.

Student considerations Control measures

Physical exertion
Exhaustion and fatigue

Continually monitor participants for signs of fatigue and exhaustion, particularly if wading while dragging a bait net.

Manual handling
Lifting equipment

Use correct manual handling processes when lifting, lowering, pushing, pulling or carrying.

Use aids for safe handling, lifting and carrying (e.g. guards, safety steps and mobile trolleys), as appropriate.

Student issues
High risk behaviours, separation from the group

Remove accessories (e.g. jewellery, lanyards) before participating.

Ensure fingernails, hair and clothing (e.g. long hair, loose shirts) do not pose a hazard.

Account for all equipment, chemicals and resources (e.g. matches, sharp tools) after the activity.

In addition for off-site activities:

Implement procedures (e.g. buddy system, roll marking mechanisms) to account for all participants.

Adopt system of signals to clearly communicate the need for assistance if in difficulty.


Provide adequate space for each participant.

Have students wear easily identifiable clothing (e.g. high visibility rash vest).

Ensure staff can easily recognise those students with health support needs (in and out of the water) and are familiar with their needs. ​


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Last updated 13 July 2022