How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane

Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane

We’ve had plenty of funerals on board – ALL ashes, mind you. Scattering ashes from a boat is legal in the United States. The federal Clean Water Act requires mourners to scatter the cremated remains at least three nautical miles from land, at no particular depth. Here’s what you need to know to conduct a burial at sea – or from the air – legally.

Do Human Ashes Harm the Environment

According to Boston Cremation, ashes from a cremation are not harmful to the environment or the ocean. They are simply minerals, and can be scattered at any depth of water. Anything you scatter with the ashes, like the container or flowers, also must be biodegradable and decomposable.

Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane
Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane

What Is Not Allowed

Scattering ashes from beaches or by the sea is not allowed by the EPA.

Neither is scattering the ashes of your pet alone, or with human remains.

No Permit Needed

You can find the information from the EPA on Burial at Sea here. There is a general permit in place already, so no specific permit or application is necessary from you.

Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane
Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane

Notifying the EPA Is Required

However, you do need to notify the EPA within 30 days following the event. After conducting a burial at sea under the MPRSA general permit, you will need to fill out the Burial at Sea Report (BASR) within 30 days.

You can use this form to report either a non-cremated or cremated human remains burial at sea to the EPA. The form is simple, and reports your details directly to the EPA.

I always wait until returning to shore to fill it out in case of inclement weather delaying our plans.

Filling Out the Form

The Burial at Sea Report (BASR) form is not complicated, and does not take long to fill out. You must supply your name, address, phone number, email, a vessel point of contact, address, phone number, email, and choose single entry, or multiple entry for more than one remains.

You will need the name of the deceased, date of burial/scatter, departure location, type of remains, and latitude and longitude are required as well. If you conduct burials at sea often, go ahead and create an account so you don’t have to re-enter your information.

There is a Burial at Sea Reporting Tool Fact Sheet if you need. You do not need to submit documentation, such as a Certificate of Death, to EPA when reporting a burial at sea.

Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane
Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane

Other Information

To report a burial of human remains by other means, you will need to contact the EPA Region where the vessel carrying the remains departed. To identify the appropriate EPA Regional contact for your area, you should consult the EPA’s Regional Offices Contact List.

For an overview of scattering ashes, Simply Cremation has a comprehensive account of some unique options and considerations, such as keeping a portion of the ashes for remembrance.

One source for attractive wood boxes for transporting ashes is Amazon – and their prices are quite reasonable. Plus, they can arrive very quickly.

Stories of Burials at Sea from Sailboats I’ve Captained for the Ceremony

Click the title above to read more about some of my experiences with burials at sea on a sailboat.

If you need to rent a boat, that can be arranged, as well. You might want to read: Finding a Boat to Rent // There’s an App for That Too // Boat Rental Apps.

Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane
Burials at Sea, How To Perform a Legal Burial at Sea // Saying Goodbye to Your Loved Ones by Boat or Plane

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  • Girls That Scuba – members discount card for all things diving.
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Updated October 21, 2023.

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