Burial at Sea: What it is and how you can turn ashes into coral reef (PLUS COST)

Kim Wilhelm CEO of Final Expense Direct Life Insurance
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Written by Kim Wilhelm

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Last Updated 03 Dec 2022

For many years, the option after death was either burial or cremation of your remains. But now, you have another option that might be of interest.

Coral reef cremation, or artificial reef memorials, are another option you can choose as your final resting place. With cremation on the rise, according to the National Funeral Directors Association 2021 Cremation and Burial report, becoming an eternal reef is an alternative solution you might want to consider.

What’s a Coral Reef Burial?

A coral reef burial is a burial at sea. For decades, divers have seen the effects of humans and climate change on coral reef degradation. The impact on marine environments and sea life led one diver to figure out a way to sustain more sea life and honor his father-in-law’s wish to be buried at sea.

The diver used a mix of his father-in-law’s ashes and concrete to create a reef ball. He placed the cremation reef ball at the bottom of the ocean. This is where the idea of a memorial reef, eternal reef, or coral reef burial came from.

How Do Eternal Reef Burials Work?

Eternal reef burials work by creating an artificial coral reef on the seafloor for marine life. They start with cremated ashes

The ashes are mixed with environmentally safe cement and cast into a reef ball or any shape the company you choose offers. Most often, the cast is a large ball cemented into a hollow structure that is several hundred to several thousand pounds. 

The shape and size help prevent it from moving during heavy storms, keeping it in place to allow marine life to take hold and flourish.

After they place the reef ball, your family will receive a certificate with GPS coordinates of the exact location. They can come visit you anytime on the seafloor to see how your artificial reef memorial is giving back to the animals, plants, coral, and algae below.

While not as easy to access as a cemetery or plot of land, the memorial reef ball is a unique way to make a positive impact on the planet once the Good Lord calls you home.

How Much Does a Memorial Reef Burial Cost?

The cost of a memorial reef burial differs depending on the company you use and the package you choose. The initial cost you’ll incur for a coral reef burial is the cost of cremation.

A direct cremation, which means after death, your body goes straight to the crematory without having a service or viewing, will cost between $2,000 and $5,000. If you want a cremation with service and viewing, expect the cost to be between $4,000 and $7,000.

You have a few options for a reef ball memorial with varying costs.

Eternal Reefs

Eternal Reefs coral reef cremation company has three different options to choose from. 

The Aquarius eternal reef costs $3,995 and can accommodate one person and a pet. 

The Nautilus eternal reef costs $4,995, accommodating two sets of remains. 

You can also choose the Mariner eternal reef memorial, which is large enough for a family of four at a cost of $7,995. 

These figures include the family in the casting, dedication, and placement process. If you want an unattended coral reef cremation, the cost is $1,000 less.

You’ll also receive: 

  • An inscribed bronze plaque

  • Your choice of eternal reef

  • Transportation to the reef site for the placement

  • Two memorial certificates with the GPS location of the Eternal Reef

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Memorial Reefs International

Another option is Memorial Reefs International. You can purchase a Poseidon Memorial for one set of cremated remains at $2,749 or an Atlantis Memorial for $3,749 for two sets of remains. This also includes a monument, family participation, an engraved memorial marker, and a dedication certificate with the GPS coordinates.

If your family or loved ones want to take part in a three-day event, the cost includes an additional certificate, unlimited attendees at the jewel-making ceremony (interment of cremated remains into the reef ball), and refreshments at the ceremony for a cost of:

  • Poseidon Memorial: $4,499

  • Atlantis Memorial: $5,249

  • Oceanus Memorial: $8,999 for up to four sets of remains

Memorial Reefs International also has a Now & When option, which includes a reef ball burial now and then another one when you pass away. This is an add-on for the memorial gathering package at $7,999 for one set of remains and $9,999 for up to two sets of remains.

Neptune Memorial Reef

Like the other artificial reef memorial companies, Neptune Memorial Reef has several package options to choose from. 

The most basic package, the Scatter at Sea Package, costs $1,395. Your ashes will be scattered over the Neptune Memorial in open waters. You get a personalized memorial plaque, an online memorial page, a certificate with GPS coordinates, and a photography package.

The standard package costs $7,995. It includes everything the Scatter at Sea package includes, but you also get an artificial reef memorial on the ocean floor.

The premium package is $12,995 and you get to choose between a road podium, starfish, seashell, or coral artificial reef memorial. It includes everything the Scatter at Sea package includes.

With the exclusive package, you get everything from the Scatter at Sea package, plus your choice of a mermaid or dolphin crown placement, radius capital top, or road capital top reef memorial.

The most expensive option is the Limited Release package. You get your choice of a manatee, octopus, turtle, or stingray, plus the Scatter at Sea package, for $15,995.

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Where are Reef Ball Memorials Located?

Reef ball memorials are located on each coast of the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Italy. Locations are carefully chosen based on where coral reef restoration is needed the most.

Some cremation reef ball locations include:

  • California

  • Florida

  • Texas

  • New Jersey

  • North Carolina

  • South Carolina

  • Maryland

  • Virginia

  • Baja

  • Merida

  • Cozumel

  • Ontario

  • British Columbia

  • Venice, Italy

The more popular reef ball burial becomes, the more locations may become available. 

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Are Artificial Reef Memorials Eco-Friendly?

Whether artificial reef memorials are eco-friendly depends on your stance on artificial reef creation. There’s no denying that artificial reefs create habitats for fish, algae, coral, and other plant and sea life. 

Overconsumption of resources by humans, the use of toxic sunscreens and other chemicals that go into our waters, and climate change have all added to the demise of beneficial coral reefs. Without the strategic placement of reef balls, degradation would continue until some marine species are completely wiped out.

However, there’s also no denying the environmental impact of cremation and reef creation. Cremating remains releases heavy metals, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide into the atmosphere. It’s estimated that each cremation is equivalent to two tanks of fuel in the average car.

Companies make artificial reefs of cement and weigh several hundred to several thousand pounds. Estimates for coral reef ball production are thought to be around a quarter of a ton of the nearly 2 billion metric tons produced worldwide each year. Cement plants are responsible for 2.4% of the planet’s CO2 emissions, according to Audubon.

So, while artificial reef memorials can help rebuild and establish marine ecosystems, they are not considered an eco-friendly, or green burial, alternative.

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FAQs on Artificial Reef Ball Memorials

Does Life Insurance Cover Eternal Reef Memorial Burial?

Yes, life insurance can cover eternal reef memorial burial. When you pass away, your beneficiary will receive the death benefit amount. Some or all of the money can be used to pay for your funeral or cremation, plus the cost of the artificial reef memorial. Contact Final Expense Direct today to get a quote for burial insurance.

Do I Have to Be Cremated to Be Part of An Artificial Reef Memorial?

Yes, you have to be cremated to be part of an artificial reef memorial. Once you’ve been cremated, the company of your choice will turn your ashes into a coral reef ball. The company will place the memorial reef on the seafloor in one of several locations.

Can I Add to the Coral Reef Ball After Placement in the Ocean?

No, you cannot add to the coral reef ball after placement in the ocean. They add all cremated remains to the reef ball at the same time and cast it into a solid cement structure. The memorial reef will not move or be manipulated once placed to protect the artificial reef's integrity and marine life living on and around it.

Can I Get My Pet Interred With Me?

Yes, you can get your pet interred with you. You’ll have to make sure you purchase the right package to include more than one set of cremated remains. Both you and your pet will have to be cremated first to turn your ashes into a coral reef ball.

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