Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

EPA's Region 6 Office

Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations

Burial of Human Remains at Sea

According to federal regulations (40 CFR 229.1 (PDF) (1 p, 149K, About PDF) based on the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuary Act of 1972, human remains transported from United States ports or on United States vessels or aircraft may be buried at sea under specified conditions. These include cremated as well as non-cremated remains.

Requirements for burying remains at sea are listed below. Burials in inland waters are regulated according to the Clean Water Act. For inland waters burial, a permit is required from the appropriate state agency.

Official nautical charts published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) show the “three nautical mile line”.Exit EPA Disclaimer

The following activities are not allowed under the federal general permit for burial at sea:
· Placement of human remains in any waters landward of the three nautical mile line (i.e. closer than 3 miles to land)
· Placement of nonhuman 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, urns, tombs, tombstones, gravestones, monuments, mausoleums, artificial reefs, etc.)

Please note the requirement that the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) be notified within 30 days after burial.

Requirements

Preparation for burial

Human remains shall be prepared for burial at sea and 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. For example, local health departments may require burial or cremation permits.

A copy of the general permit for burial at sea (40 CFR 229.1) is required to be placed in the vessel or aircraft which will be used for the transportation and burial.

The United States Navy Burial at Sea Program Exit EPA Disclaimer provides additional information.

Disposal location and measures - Non-cremated remains

Burial at sea of human remains that are not cremated shall take place at least 3 nautical miles from land and in water at least 600 feet deep. Certain areas, including east central Florida, the Dry Tortugas, Florida and west of Pensacola, Florida to the Mississippi River Delta, require water at least 1800 feet deep. Refer to the Code of Federal Regulations at 40 CFR 229.1 (PDF) (1 p, 149K, About PDF) for details. All necessary measures shall be taken to ensure that the remains sink to the bottom rapidly and permanently.

Disposal location and measures - Cremated remains

Cremated remains shall be buried in or on ocean waters without regard to the depth limitations specified for non-cremated remains in paragraph 2 above provided that such burial takes place at least three nautical miles from land.

Decomposable flowers and wreaths

Flowers and wreaths consisting of materials that are readily decomposable in the marine environment may be placed at the burial site.

Notice to EPA within 30 days

All burials conducted shall be reported within 30 days to the EPA Region in writing. The following information should be included and mailed or faxed to the Region 6 contact at the bottom of this page.  You can copy the information below or complete and print the Region 6 burial at sea form (PDF) (1 p, 228K, About PDF).

NAME OF DECEASED:
DATE OF BURIAL/SCATTER:
TYPES OF REMAINS:
Cremated (  ) Non-Cremated (  )
LOCATION OF BURIAL/SCATTER
  Latitude:    
  Longitude:    
  Distance from shore:
(minimum of 3 nautical miles)
  Depth of water:    
VESSEL NAME:
VESSEL POINT OF CONTACT
  Name:
  Phone:
PORT OF DEPARTURE:
FOR NON-CREMATED REMAINS
  Did the remains appear to rapidly sink to the ocean floor?
Yes (  )      No (  )
DIRECTOR OR PERSON(S) RESPONSIBLE FOR BURIAL ARRANGEMENTS
  Name:
  Phone:

Frequently Asked Questions (PDF) (2 p, 16K, About PDF)

Top of Page

For More Information in Region 6

Lousiana and Texas

Jessica L. Franks, Ph.D.
U.S. EPA, Region 6 (6WQ-EC)
1445 Ross Ave., Suite 1200
Dallas, Texas 75202-2733


Top of Page

For information about the contents of this page, please contact Adrian Chavarria

Back to Ecosystems Protection Branch Home Page

Jump to main content.