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U.S. Federal Regulations for Burial or Scattering at Sea – Full Text & Explanation

Ocean Scattering or Water Burial Laws and Regulations

Burial at sea – whether full-body or scattering of ashes – is a popular disposition method. There are some laws which regulate how this should be done. Here is the section from the Code of Federal Regulations that deals with the issue of burial or scattering at sea. From CFR Title 40, 229.1.

Water Burial or Scattering - Laws & Regulations

Laws for Full-Body Burial at Sea – Summary

  • Use a normal, accepted method for water burial
  • Go out 3 nautical miles
  • Make sure water depth is 600 feet
  • In some locations near Florida and the Mississippi River Delta, water depth must be 1800 feet
  • Ensure that the body will sink to the bottom quickly and permanently
  • You can scatter flower petals or wreaths at the site, as long as they are natural and biodegradable
  • Report the burial to the local EPA office within 30 days

Laws for Scattering Cremated Ashes at Sea – Summary

  • Use a normal, accepted method for water scattering
  • Go out 3 nautical miles
  • No depth requirement
  • Ensure that the remains will sink (or dissolve) quickly and permanently
  • You can scatter flower petals or wreaths at the site, as long as they are natural and biodegradable
  • Report the scattering to the local EPA office within 30 days

U.S. Federal Regulations for Burial or Scattering at Sea – Full Text

(From GPO.gov, 7-1-16 edition)

§ 229.1

Burial at sea.

(a) All persons subject to title I of the Act are hereby granted a general permit to transport human remains from the United States and all persons owning or operating a vessel or aircraft registered in the United States or flying the United States flag and all departments, agencies, or instrumentalities of the United States are hereby granted a general permit to transport human remains from any location for the purpose of burial at sea and to bury such remains at sea subject to the following conditions:

(1) Except as herein otherwise provided, human remains shall be prepared for burial at sea and shall be buried in accordance with accepted practices and requirements as may be deemed appropriate and desirable by the United States Navy, United States Coast Guard, or civil authority charged with the responsibility for making such arrangements;

(2) Burial at sea of human remains which are not cremated shall take place no closer than 3 nautical miles from land and in water no less than one hundred fathoms (six hundred feet) deep and in no less than three hundred fathoms (eighteen hundred feet) from

(i) 27°30′00″ to 31°00′00″ North Latitude off St. Augustine and Cape Canaveral, Florida;

(ii) 82°20′00″ to 84°00′00″ West Longitude off Dry Tortugas, Florida; and

(iii) 87°15′00″ to 89°50′00″ West Longitude off the Mississippi River Delta, Louisiana, to Pensacola, Florida. All necessary measures shall be taken to ensure that the remains sink to the bottom rapidly and permanently; and

(3) Cremated remains shall be buried in or on ocean waters without regard to the depth limitations specified in paragraph (a)(2) of this section provided that such burial shall take place no closer than 3 nautical miles from land.

(b) For purposes of this section and §§229.2 and 229.3, land means that portion of the baseline from which the territorial sea is measured, as provided for in the Convention on the Territorial Sea and the Contiguous Zone, which is in closest proximity to the proposed disposal site.

(c) Flowers and wreaths consisting of materials which are readily decomposable in the marine environment may be disposed of under the general permit set forth in this section at the site at which disposal of human remains is authorized.

(d) All burials conducted under this general permit shall be reported within 30 days to the Regional Administrator of the Region from which the vessel carrying the remains departed.

U.S. Federal Regulations for Burial or Scattering at Sea – Explanation

Our summary and interpretation of the regulations listed above. This is not an official explanation, but our attempt to help you get an idea of what you need to know for a scattering or burial at sea. Please see your local EPA agency for further clarification.

(a) You can transport human remains from any location for burial at sea, provided you meet the following requirements.

(1) Use a normal, accepted method for scattering at sea. Nothing weird.

(2) For non-cremated remains (i.e., a full body) you must go out at least 3 nautical miles from land, and water depth should be six hundred feet. Some exceptions:

(i, ii, iii) If you’re off of east central Florida, the Dry Tortugas, Florida and west of Pensacola, Florida to the Mississippi River Delta, then the water needs to be 1800 feet deep. You must make sure that the body will sink to the bottom quickly and permanently.

(3) For cremated remains (i.e., ashes), you must go out at least 3 nautical miles and there is no depth requirement.

(b) Use a standard method to measure distance from shore.

(c) You can scatter or drop biodegradable (non-preserved) flowers, flower petals, or wreaths as part of the memorial. Take care of the environment.

(d) Report the burial or scattering to the EPA’s Regional Administrator within 30 days.

Laws about Burial at Sea

Read More at EPA.gov

For more information and further reading, here is the Burial at Sea section from EPA.gov.

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