Posted on

Everything You Need to Scatter Ashes at Sea

Burial at Sea

As you decide what to do with your loved one’s remains, you may want to consider a burial at sea. This beautiful ceremony releases cremation ash into open water. If you’d like to scatter ashes at sea, there are several options and guidelines to consider. 

Table of Contents

Plan an Ocean Burial
How do I request a burial at sea?
Your Options: Scattering Ashes at Sea
Can you Scatter Ashes in the ocean?
How to Scatter Ashes at Sea
Your Options: Scatter Ashes on the beach
Can you scatter ashes on the beach?
How to Scatter Ashes at the Beach
Selecting Sea Burial Services
How much does it cost to be buried at sea?
Burial at Sea Ceremony Ideas
Prayers for Burial at Sea
Poems for Ocean Ash Scattering
Bible Verses for Ocean Burial

We recommend working with a planning service to ensure that you comply with EPA regulations. Also, it frees you to focus on the memorial service. If you’re planning one of these ceremonies common questions include: 

  • Is it illegal to put ashes in the ocean?
  • What are the rules for burial at sea?
  • What should I bring for an ocean burial?
  • What should I say during the memorial ceremony?

This guide reviews the most popular questions and our recommendations for a smooth, simple release.

Plan an Ocean Burial

When you dispose of human remains in the ocean, this is classified as a burial at sea. Often, people imagine military funeral services conducted by the United States Navy. However, there are private options available to anyone. 

How do I request a burial at sea?

If you are interested in a private ceremony, you can contact a company that provides these services. For example, we offer both attended and unattended ceremonies through Rest Ashured. 

Your Options: Scattering Ashes at Sea

Using a boat, cremation ashes can be scattered on the water or floated in a biodegradable urn. 

Can you Scatter Ashes at sea?

Yes, but you must follow EPA regulations. Cremated remains must be buried at least three nautical miles from land. You may use flowers or wreaths that are readily decomposable in the marine environment. 

You must notify the EPA within 30 days following your event. All burials at sea conducted under the MPRSA general permit must be reported to the EPA Region from which the vessel carrying the remains departed.

Procedure From EPA.gov

“A burial at sea of non-cremated and cremated human remains may be reported to EPA using the Burial at Sea Reporting Tool. The Burial at Sea Reporting Tool enables individuals or companies that have conducted a burial at sea to enter information into a simple online form and report the burial directly to EPA. For information about the Burial at Sea Reporting Tool including instructions for reporting one or multiple burials at sea, please see the Burial at Sea Reporting Tool Fact Sheet. Please note that you do not need to submit documentation, such as a Certificate of Death, to EPA when reporting a burial at sea.

To report a burial of human remains by other means, please contact the EPA Region where the vessel carrying the remains departed. To identify the appropriate EPA Regional contact, please see EPA’s Regional Offices Contact List.”

Restrictions From EPA.gov:

“The following activity is not allowed under the MPRSA general permit for burial at sea:

  • Burying human remains in ocean waters within three nautical miles from shore, i.e., the ordinary low water mark or a closing line drawn on nautical charts across the openings of bays and rivers.
  • Burial of non-human remains (such as pet remains).
  • Placement of materials which are not readily decomposable in the marine environment, such as plastic or metal flowers and wreaths, tombs, tombstones, gravestones, monuments, mausoleums, artificial reefs, etc.

Any such activity would require an application for an MPRSA special permit.”

How to Scatter Ashes at Sea


Most people choose between a scattering ceremony and a floating ceremony. 

  • Scattering Ceremony: The family takes an active part in scattering the ashes of their loved one. You can designate a single person to release the ashes. In other ceremonies, guests will take a portion of the ashes to scatter. Guests may choose to share a word before they release the ashes. Also, the group may choose to release the separated ashes together.
  • Floating Ceremony: You place the cremation ash in a specially-designed water-soluble urn. The urns can be simple or ornate. As a part of the memorial, you place the urn in the water. The urn floats for several minutes before it begins to sink. 

Often, guests speak kind words or scatter flowers to conclude these ceremonies.

Your Options: Scatter Ashes on the beach

You cannot legally scatter ashes on the beach. Instead, you must schedule a boat to take you more than three nautical miles from the shore. Then, you can follow the regulations stated in the above section. 

Can you scatter ashes on the beach?

No, you must scatter ashes on open water. 

How to Scatter Ashes at the Beach

You must find a boat captain to take you an appropriate distance from the shore. They must abide by the EPA guidelines under the MPRSA general permit for burial at sea. This includes the proper reporting of the burial as noted in the section above.

Selecting Sea Burial Services

As you plan your service, several decisions influence your burial at sea cost. These include:

  • Scattering Location
  • Service Type such as attended or unattended
  • Ceremony format such as a scattering ceremony or a floating ceremony.

You can customize these choices to create a special day. 

How much does it cost to be buried at sea?

The simplicity of a burial at sea ceremony offers an affordable way to say goodbye. 

General costs often include:

  • Direct Cremation: $1,500 is the U.S. average according to Parting.com. Many Virginia crematories offer services at a slightly lower rate.
  • Memorial or Celebration of Life Cards: Memorial cards or program printing ranges from $0.54 each at Shutterfly to $0.99 each at Walgreens.
  • Local Obituary: Announcements may cost between $100 – $800 according to Legacy.com.
  • Vessels or Urns: Most of the time, an urn is included in your cost of cremation. However, you may need a water-soluble urn if you choose a floating ceremony. Cost varies by manufacturer with options less than $200.

Unattended Ceremony costs include:

  • Postage, packaging, shipping, and handling fees 
  • Boat and Captain Reservation 

Attended Ceremony costs include:

  • Initial Cremation 
  • Travel & Lodging 
  • Boat and Captain Reservation

Use an ash scattering service provider to simplify some of these details.

Burial at Sea Ceremony Ideas

With attended burial-at-sea scatterings, a ceremony may be held on the boat during the trip. We’ve collected poems, prayers, and verses to inspire your service. 

Burial at Sea Prayers

You can read these prayers during your ceremony.

Burial at Sea

The Book of Common Prayer (1928) of the Protestant Episcopal Church (Source)

Unto Almighty God, we commend the soul of our brother departed, and we commit his body to the deep; in sure and certain hope of the Resurrection unto eternal life, through our Lord Jesus Christ; at whose coming in glorious majesty to judge the world, the sea shall give up her dead; and the corruptible bodies of those who sleep in him shall be changed, and made like unto his glorious body; according to the mighty working whereby he is able to subdue all things unto himself.

Fisherman’s Prayer

Anonymous

God grant that I may live to fish for another shining day. 
But when my final cast is made I then most humbly pray, 
When nestled in your landing net as I lay peacefully asleep, 
You’ll smile and judge that I’m ‘good enough to keep’.”

The Lord’s Prayer 

Matthew 6:9-13, KJV (Source)

Our Father, who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name;
thy kingdom come;
thy will be done;
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation;
but deliver us from evil.
For thine is the kingdom,
the power and the glory,
forever and ever.
Amen.

Poems to Scatter Ashes at Sea

These poems celebrate the sea as a final resting place.

Burial at Sea

By John Companiotte (Source)

There will I lie, 
Forever with a moving element,
Not sunk in the leaden earth
Missing the sullen music of whales
For a lullaby to soothe my sleep.
Small fish with vermilion scales,
Haloing wide purple faces, will dart
In and out of my long dream
With no disturbance, their colors
Shimmering and enlivening my eyes
Closed to the pink revelry of dawn.
The swell of the shifting current
Will tug at my stuffed shirt, waking 
Me from being human, immersing
My soul in water where first
Life and memory began.

A Fisherman’s Prayer

By Jeannette Hoppes (Source)

God grant me a little more time
To pick up my rod, and cast my line.
Work and worry disappear
When I pick up my fishing gear.
With boat on trailer, I will go
Anywhere the fishing’s not too slow.
Work just doesn’t seem so fine
When I see what’s at the end of my fishing line.
When I am feeble, old and grey
Please don’t take my pole away.
When the Pearly Gates open wide
Please find this old fisherman, one good lake inside!

Burial at Sea

Mrs. L.H. Sigourney (Source)

Down to the unfathom’d realms,
Where hidden fountains flow,
Alone, his silent couch to find,
The child of earth must go.
For him no funeral bell
May weeping friends convene,
Nor dust, to kindred dust be laid
Within the church-yard green.
Farewell! one heavy plunge!
One cleft in ocean’s floor!

Bible Verses for Ocean Burial

Celebrating faith, these verses remember the hope of heaven.

Psalm 107:23-24 (ESV)

“Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep.”

Matthew 5:4 (ESV)

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

Psalm 46: 1-3 (ESV)

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. Selah.”

Scatter Ashes at Sea

Choosing a service that follows the MPRSA general permit for burial at sea will simplify your planning process. Then, you can enjoy a beautiful service that reflects on the life of your loved one. At Rest Ashured, our scattering locations include the Outer Banks, North Carolina, Topsail Island, North Carolina, and Virginia Beach, Virginia. We offer both attended and unattended burial at sea options

If you choose an attended ceremony, we will connect you with a boat captain. He’ll work with you to pick your special day. On your scheduled day,  you will meet him at the boat slip to begin your ceremony. 

If you choose an unattended ceremony, the boat captain will set a time to respectfully scatter your loved one’s remains. We will inform you on the day of release. Most of the time, this is within 30 days. 
We make the process as smooth as possible. Please get in touch with us by calling 434-534-4007 or emailing us info@restashured.com.