Cremation, with its ever-growing popularity in America, has given rise to a suite of services geared towards personalized ceremonies that include cremated remains. One popular option is “burial at sea,” a term often used interchangeably with “scattering ashes at sea.”
What is Burial at Sea?
Burial at sea is a broader term that includes both spreading ashes at sea as well as whole-body burial at sea. For the sake of this article, we will focus on burial at sea via the spreading or scattering of ashes.
What is Ash Scattering at Sea?
Scattering ashes at sea is just the way it sounds. Through the hiring of a charter boat who follows EPA regulations, you or your loved one’s ashes can be spread or scattered at sea in a location near the location of your choice.
Options for Scattering Ashes at Sea
The two options that are most common for scattering ashes at sea are:
1. Attended or Witnessed Burial or Spreading Ashes at Sea
Via a charter boat, a family can be on the boat participating in the actual ash scattering once at sea. Most scattering services offer the boat for private use, so no other families are in attendance. While other charter boats may offer group voyages for multiple families to all go together, which can be less costly.
Charters range from 1 to 3 hours and all go out to sea a minimum of 3 nautical miles as required by the EPA. Click here to skip to more information on EPA requirements.
2. Unattended Scattering at Sea
A lower-cost option is an unattended scattering a sea. For this, the service provider may take one or multiple sets of ashes out to see and scatter them on behalf of the family.
Providers, like Metamorphosis Boat Charters in Atlantic City NJ, may offer to take digital photos, video, or live-stream these “unattended” services so family far away can still partake in the ceremony.
Most ash scattering services will provide a certificate indicating, time, date, and location of the ash scattering including the latitude and longitude coordinates.
Where to Find Burial at Sea Providers
Licensed ash scatterings at sea are offered by charter boat services. They take place all over the USA, typically near coastal cities. A quick search online will reveal those closest to you or the desired area of scattering.
You can also lookup ash scattering services via the Funerals360 Vendor Marketplace.
Costs of Burial at Sea
As with all funeral-related services, costs for spreading ashes at sea can vary greatly.
Unattended ash scatterings will always cost less than attended services. Likewise, a private charter will be more expensive than a shared group charter and boats that are luxurious or have larger capacity will typically cost more than smaller boats.
Through our research, we found a range of costs for ash scattering at sea:
Unattended ash scatterings cost between $150 to $750.
Single-family private charters for attended ash-scatterings cost $295 to $3,500.
According to regulations (40CFR 229.1) based on the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuary Act of 1972, human remains transported from U.S. ports or on U.S. vessels or aircraft may be buried at sea under specified conditions. These include cremated as well as non-cremated remains. Requirements for burying remains at sea are listed below. Please note the requirement that the (EPA) be notified within 30 days after burial.
Preparation for burial. Human remains shall be prepared for burial at sea and buried in accordance with accepted practices and requirements as may be deemed appropriate and desirable by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, or civil authority charged with the responsibility for making such arrangements. For example, local health departments may require burial or cremation permits.
Disposal location and measures. Cremated remains shall be buried in or on ocean waters without regard to the depth limitations provided that such burial take place at least 3 nautical miles from land.
Decomposable flowers and wreaths. Flowers and wreaths consisting of materials that are readily decomposable in the marine environment may be placed at the burial site.
Notice to EPA within 30 days. All burials conducted shall be reported within 30 days to the EPA Region in writing.
Examples of Scattering at Sea
Here are a couple of videos showing spreading of ashes at sea, courtesy of Captain Stu at Metamorphosis Boat Charters in Atlantic City, NJ.
Two scattering methods can be observed within the videos. The first video demonstrates a scattering of ashes directly to the sea. The second video utilizes a biodegradable urn. This is purely preference, however, if an urn is placed in the sea, it must be made of a biodegradable material.
(click this link if the embedded video does not work: https://youtu.be/dmc_NG0GWV8)
(click this link if the embedded video does not work: https://youtu.be/znG50Lsu9VY)
Though there are many options for cremated remains, burial at sea via an ash scattering is a popular option, especially among those who love being at the beach or on the water. As with all services pertaining to funeral arrangments, be sure to evaluate several options and understand the costs involved before selecting one for you or your family.
A special thank you to Captain Stu at Metamorphosis Boat Charters for his advisement on this topic and providing references for our readers to learn from.