For those whose lives revolve around the sea, there is no greater honor than being buried in its depths when death comes knocking. At a glance, burial at sea seems relatively easy. You just need to make sure your deceased loved one is well-protected so that no sea creature can disturb his or her eternal sleep, and secure the body with dead weight to make it stay at the bottom of the sea.
However, burials at sea are notoriously difficult to do, not to mention several legal repercussions that can happen to you if you do not follow the proper legal protocols.
While there are private charters that specialize in this kind of thing, it wouldn’t hurt to know the do’s and don’ts when honoring your departed relative’s request of being buried at sea.
Acquiring a General Permit
For starters, burials at sea can’t be done without a general permit issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as stated in the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA). This permit authorizes a person or party of persons to transport and bury human remains in ocean waters under specific conditions. This is applicable regardless of whether the human remains were cremated or not.
General permits for burial at sea are bestowed upon all persons that are transporting human remains from the US, owns/operates a vessel registered in the US or flying the US flag to transport human remains, or belonging to a US government department or agency transporting human remains from any location for sea burial.
Proper Preparation of Human Remains
As said previously, full-body sea burials are not simple. The human remains should be prepared and buried in accordance with accepted practices and regulations that are deemed appropriate by either the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, or the local State laws.
Non-cremated human remains should either be placed in a plastic-free casket or, in the absence of a casket, wrapped in a shroud. Those that are buried with a casket should have an additional weight made of either sand or concrete to offset its buoyancy. The added weight should be four times heavier than the casket being buried.
Furthermore, whether the body is inside a casket or wrapped in a shroud, it should be wrapped with stainless steel chain to ensure permanent sinking. Cremated remains are a bit easier, as you can bury or scatter it on ocean’s surface as long as the chosen burial site is at least three nautical miles away from land.
Of course, it will help immensely if you can hire a charter boat that specializes in sea burials as they are already knowledgeable regarding all the legal requirements.
Burial at Sea, epa.gov
How to Bury a Loved One at Sea in 4 Easy Steps, newsfeed.time.com