Sea burials, also known as ocean memorials, are a unique and meaningful way to say goodbye to a loved one. This ancient practice has been adopted by various cultures across the globe, offering a serene and natural alternative to traditional land burials. This comprehensive guide will delve into the intricacies of sea burials, from their history and significance to the legalities and procedures involved.


Understanding Sea Burials

Sea burials are a form of final disposition where the remains of the deceased are committed to the ocean. This can involve the scattering of ashes or the sinking of a biodegradable urn, or in some cases, the burial of the entire body at sea.

Many people are drawn to the idea of a sea burial due to its simplicity and the sense of peace it can bring. The ocean, with its vastness and mystery, can offer a comforting metaphor for the cycle of life and death.


Historical Context of Sea Burials

Sea burials have a long and varied history, with roots in many different cultures. For centuries, mariners and naval personnel have been buried at sea, a tradition that continues to this day in many parts of the world. In some cultures, sea burials are seen as a way to return the deceased to nature, in a cycle of life, death, and rebirth.

In addition to these historical practices, sea burials have also been adopted by various religious groups. For example, in Hinduism and Buddhism, the scattering of ashes in a body of water is a common practice, symbolizing the return of the body to the elements.


Legal Aspects of Sea Burials

While sea burials may seem like a straightforward process, there are several legal considerations to keep in mind. Laws and regulations regarding sea burials vary greatly from country to country, and even within different regions of the same country.

In the United States, for example, sea burials are regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA requires that burials at sea take place at least three nautical miles from land and in water at least 600 feet deep. In addition, the EPA must be notified within 30 days of the burial.


Obtaining Necessary Permits

Before proceeding with a sea burial, it's important to obtain any necessary permits or permissions. In many cases, this will involve contacting local authorities or maritime agencies. It's also a good idea to consult with a funeral director or a company that specializes in sea burials, as they can provide valuable guidance and assistance.

Keep in mind that failure to comply with local laws and regulations can result in hefty fines or other penalties. Therefore, it's crucial to do your homework and ensure that everything is in order before proceeding with a sea burial.


Planning a Sea Burial

Planning a sea burial involves several key steps, from choosing a location to selecting a vessel and deciding on the type of service. Each of these elements can be tailored to reflect the wishes of the deceased and their loved ones, creating a truly personal and meaningful memorial.

One of the first decisions to make when planning a sea burial is whether to scatter the ashes directly into the water or to use a biodegradable urn. Both options have their own benefits and considerations, so it's important to weigh these carefully.


Choosing a Location

The location of a sea burial is often a deeply personal choice. Some people may choose a spot that holds special significance for the deceased, such as a favorite beach or fishing spot. Others may simply choose a location for its beauty and tranquility.

When choosing a location, it's also important to consider practical factors such as accessibility and local regulations. Some areas may be off-limits for sea burials, while others may require special permissions or permits.


Selecting a Vessel

The vessel used for a sea burial can range from a simple rowboat to a larger charter boat, depending on the size of the group and the specific needs of the service. Some companies specialize in sea burials and offer a variety of vessels and services to choose from.

When selecting a vessel, consider factors such as comfort, safety, and amenities. It's also a good idea to discuss any special requests or needs with the boat operator in advance.


Planning the Service

The service itself can be as simple or elaborate as desired. Some people may choose to have a religious ceremony, while others may prefer a more secular service. Music, readings, and eulogies can all be incorporated into the service to make it more personal and meaningful.

Regardless of the specific elements chosen, the goal of the service should be to honor the life of the deceased and provide a sense of closure for those in attendance.



Sea burials offer a unique and meaningful way to say goodbye to a loved one. While the process involves careful planning and consideration of various legal and logistical factors, the end result can be a beautiful and serene memorial that truly honors the life of the deceased.

Whether you're considering a sea burial for yourself or a loved one, this guide provides a comprehensive overview of what to expect. From understanding the historical and cultural significance of sea burials to navigating the legal aspects and planning the service, you'll find all the information you need to make an informed decision.