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What is a Burial at Sea?

Also known as ‘sea burial’ or ‘full body burial at sea’, the process of burying someone at sea has become more common over the past few years. It has risen in interest among those focused on environmentally conscious burial, as well as ocean lovers who want a send off that feels emotionally significant.

What does it mean to be buried at sea?

A full body burial at sea essentially means boating out to the open ocean and putting a body overboard into the water in a weighted burial shroud. U.S. law requires that a full body burial at sea must take place at least 3 miles off shore and at a depth of at least 600 feet. The boat that takes you out must have an MPRSA permit, and many states require a funeral director to be present.

Because of the time needed to reach the legal distance and depth from the U.S., a burial at sea is usually a full-day excursion. It’s not uncommon for this time to be used as a celebration of life, with people sharing food, beverages and stories. However, it’s also possible for a burial at sea to occur without friends and family present.

For more information on being buried at sea, check out the EPA's guidelines.

How much does a full body burial at sea cost?

As a result of the restrictions above and the need for a boat and crew, an attended full-body burial at sea can easily run over $10,000, not including the services of a funeral director.

What is the cost for veterans to be buried at sea?

The U.S. Navy offers burial at sea coverage for veterans who meet certain qualifications. Any active-duty members or veterans who were buried at see also qualify for a headstone or grave marker. For more information on this program, read this document provided by the U.S. Coast Guard.

Why choose a sea burial?

A full body burial at sea is generally considered to be one of the most environmentally friendly ways to handle a body. When dropped into the water in a decomposable burial shroud, a body will naturally decompose on its own and even provide food for ocean life.

For these reasons, a burial at sea may also appeal to those who feel their body should continue to have a purpose after death and give back to the natural circle of life.

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Last updated June 15, 2022
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