Are There Rules For Scattering Ashes At Sea?

23 January 2023
 Categories: , Blog


If you are setting up end-of-life planning, such as completing a living will and establishing a healthcare proxy, you may also be looking at funeral arrangements. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, cremation services are becoming more popular than burials—the association predicts that in 20 years time, cremation will make up nearly 80 percent of people's choice for funeral services. There are many advantages of cremation over burial, such as being eco-friendly and more affordable. Another advantage of cremation is that family members can scatter the ashes in a special place, such as a favorite ocean venue. If you are interested in having ashes scattered at sea, you'll want to make sure you are up to date on the rules.

What are the Rules of Ash Scattering in the Sea?

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) outlines some ground rules for cremation burials at sea. First, the ashes should be scattered no closer than three nautical miles from the shoreline. Pet remains are not allowed; and, people scattering the remains should not place any other objects that are not readily decomposable, such as synthetic flowers or plastic wreaths.

You'll have to look at your state guidelines, but some memorial items may be scattered if they are biodegradable. For instance, instead of scattering the ashes themselves, some people may place the ashes in an eco-friendly urn that will float for a moment and then break down to scatter the ashes across the water.

Are There Ways to Scatter Ashes from the Shore?

Again, it's a good idea to look up your state's rules as there may be some flexibility with scattering ashes closer to the shore. For example, in the state of Washington, you may be able to scatter ashes near public navigable waters, like the Puget Sound, since cremated remains maintain no risk to public health.

Some national parks and rivers may also allow ash scattering. When in doubt, talk with your funeral home about the local laws involving ash scattering.

Are There Rules Regarding the Type of Service You Can Have at Sea?

Just like any other funeral service, there is great flexibility in the program depending on the deceased's wishes. Sea ash scatterings can range from informal to formal services and can include standard program elements, such as a eulogy, prayers, hymns, formal reading of the obituary, etc. In general, there are two main types of services you can opt for: attended and unattended services.

With an attended service, there are many friends and family members present on the boat as the ashes are released into the sea. If you opt for an attended service, you do need to work with the boat company ahead of time to establish the location for the ash scattering, as well as the size of the group. Unattended services are those where a funeral service scatters the ashes without any friends or family members present. Some people may opt to have a combination of the two services; for instance, you could have the boating service scatter the ashes at sea while family members and friends watch from the shore.  

For more information on ocean ash scattering, reach out to a funeral service in your area today.