Burial at sea
Burying human remains at sea requires a marine licence. Scattering ashes at sea doesn’t require a marine licence.
We recognise that burial at sea is a long established tradition in the UK, particularly for those who have been associated with the sea. However, we do not encourage burial at sea because tides and currents pose a significant risk of the body being returned to shore or being caught up in fishing gear. Such events naturally cause considerable distress to relatives and all concerned. To avoid that risk, we recommend the scattering of cremation ashes at sea in place of burial where possible.
There are three burial at sea sites around the English coast:
- off the Needles, Isle of Wight
- off Tynemouth, North Tyneside
- between Hastings and Newhaven on the south coast.
Before a marine licence for burial at sea can be issued, certain documents must be presented to us for inspection. These include:
- the death certificate
- a Certificate of Freedom from Fever and Infection (available from the deceased’s general practitioner or hospital doctor)
- a notice of intention to remove a body out of England (available from the Coroner in exchange for a Certificate of Disposal provided by the Registrar).
In some circumstances we may need to inspect the body and coffin.
Please note that embalmed bodies may not be buried at sea. This is because embalming substantially delays decomposition of body tissues which increases the likelihood of the body being returned to shore by tidal currents or of the body being caught by fishing gear.
Marine licensing guidance 6: Burials at sea (PDF 192 KB)