Burial at sea has become a popular alternative to traditional land burials in recent years due to its affordability, eco-friendliness, and meaningfulness. Imagine a loved one being laid to rest in the vastness of the ocean, surrounded by the calming waves and the beauty of nature.

This option not only provides a unique and serene final resting place, but it also allows for a smaller carbon footprint and can be a more affordable option for those who may not have the means for a traditional funeral and burial.

However, there are legal requirements that must be met in order to properly conduct a burial at sea. The decision ultimately depends on individual circumstances and beliefs, and it is important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of this option before making a final decision.

This article will explore the legal requirements, options and costs, as well as the advantages and disadvantages of burial at sea to help individuals make an informed decision about this increasingly popular alternative to traditional land burials.

Legal Requirements

The legal requirements for burial at sea in the USA are governed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The permitting process involves disposing of the body at least 3 nautical miles from land in waters at least 600 feet deep. The body should not be embalmed and should be contained in a biodegradable container or shroud.

Non-human bodies and materials that are not decomposable in a marine environment are strictly prohibited from being buried at sea. The burial must also be reported to the EPA within 30 days using the Burial at Sea Reporting System.

EPA regulations also permit cremated remains to be buried in any ocean water depth as long as it is 3 nautical miles away from the coast. However, it is not allowed to bury a body at sea within 3 nautical miles under any circumstances, even if the body is cremated.

It is worth noting that MPRSA applies to ocean waters only; inland water burials are up to individual state discretion. Any kind of boat can be used for the service as long as authorized, including chartering a boat through an official burial at sea provider for non-naval burials.

Options and Costs

One option for those considering a burial at sea is to charter a boat through an official provider. This option includes the use of the vessel, fuel, captain, burial certificates, and filing with the EPA. Additional costs may include food, urns, caskets, shrouds, music, and flowers, depending on individual preferences. Chartering a boat provides a personalized and meaningful service that can be tailored to specific wishes and beliefs. However, it is important to consider the environmental impact of the service, and ensure that any materials used are biodegradable and will not harm marine life.

It is important to note that the cost of a burial at sea can vary, and typically ranges from $500 to $5,000 or more. Unattended scattering of ashes is typically less expensive, costing around $100-$300. While a burial at sea can be more affordable than a traditional burial, it is important to factor in any additional costs. Despite this, a burial at sea remains a popular choice for those seeking a more environmentally friendly and meaningful way to say goodbye to their loved ones.

Advantages and Disadvantages

It is important to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of a burial at sea before making a decision, taking into account personal beliefs and preferences, as well as any potential limitations or concerns. Here are some advantages and disadvantages to consider:


  1. More environmentally friendly than traditional burial options.
  2. May be more meaningful for those with an affinity for water or maritime life.
  3. Does not take up precious space on land.
  4. More affordable than a traditional burial.


  1. Mourners may not find comfort in not having a physical plot to visit.
  2. May not be allowed in some religions.
  3. Service may have to be smaller if more people are included, making it more expensive.
  4. Body should not be embalmed and should be contained in a biodegradable container or shroud.

Ultimately, the decision to choose a burial at sea should be based on individual circumstances and personal beliefs. While it may be more practical and affordable, it is important to consider any religious considerations and the potential impact on family and loved ones.

However, for those who have a connection to the sea and want a more unique and meaningful final resting place, a burial at sea may be a fitting choice.

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