Exploring Sea Burial: A New Trend in Eco-Friendly Funerals and Legal Considerations

Don't find it hard to believe, modern sea burial has been listed by China as a "new type of eco-friendly ecological burial". It shares similarities with tree burial, lawn burial, pagoda burial, flower burial, and wall burial, all of which are currently strongly advocated as green burial methods.

This eco-friendly funeral method is one of the most effective ways to completely solve the problem of occupying land with ashes and save funeral expenses, and it will also become the best way to deal with ashes in the future.

1. Under the influence of "celebrity effect", the advantages of sea burial are becoming more and more obvious.

The method of scattering ashes at sea has a long history, originating from the Nordic pirates and later adopted by the navy. It can be said to be the oldest and most mournful ceremony at sea. However, the initial sea burial was to directly wrap the deceased and sink into the sea, and later it was gradually changed to burn the body of the deceased into ashes, and then scatter the ashes into the sea. This operation can not only reflect the concept of returning to nature but also be green and environmentally friendly.

Sea burial is very popular abroad. According to a public opinion survey in Japan, among 378 elderly people, 70% of them expressed their willingness to scatter their ashes into the sea after death.

Chinese people pay attention to "death is great" and "burial is safe", coupled with China's strong advocacy of cremation, so cremation drives a large increase in the demand for cemeteries, leading to an increase in the price of cemeteries year by year. For example, in first-tier cities like Shanghai and Beijing, the cost of cemeteries is comparable to housing costs. Since 2008, the average annual increase in the price of cemeteries in Beijing has been more than 25%. In some popular cemeteries, even if you have money, you may not be able to buy a desired grave.

Moreover, many people always think that after buying a cemetery, they can be relieved for a lifetime, but in fact, the usage period of the cemetery is only 20 years. Specifically, every 20 years, a tomb maintenance fee must be paid to the cemetery. If the children do not pay on time, then the cemetery has the right to flatten the cemetery and re-list it for sale.

2. Compared with cremation, the advantages of sea burial are fully reflected.

2.1. Compared with inhumation and cremation, sea burial is really very cost-saving.

In September 2018, the Shenzhen Municipal Civil Affairs Bureau issued the "Shenzhen City Land-saving Eco-friendly Funeral Reward Measures". If the deceased is a household registered in Shenzhen, the handler can apply for a sea burial reward when handling the land-saving eco-friendly funeral procedures, with a standard of 3,000 yuan per body.

According to the information from Harbin News Network, the basic cost of a collective sea burial is 3,000 yuan, and two family members can carry two sets of ashes, which is only 1,500 yuan per set of ashes. In order to encourage the scattering of ashes at sea, since April 2016, Heilongjiang Province has fully implemented the ash scattering at sea subsidy policy, that is, the standard for each household's ash scattering at sea subsidy is 1,000 yuan (a household can carry two sets of ashes in principle).

Scattering ashes at sea does not require people to buy a cemetery for the deceased. After the cremation process, the ashes are directly sprinkled into the sea, saving a lot of money. Moreover, some cities also have ash subsidies for scattering ashes at sea. As long as you have relevant certificates for sea scattering, you can go to the relevant departments to apply for sea burial subsidies.

2.2. Sea burial can reduce the burden on children and future generations.

Many elderly people buy a cemetery for themselves while they are still alive to avoid the high cost of future cemetery fees for their children. Although the cemetery is bought, it also brings pressure and burden to the children. As long as the parents have a cemetery, the children must go to worship on the anniversary every year. If they do not worship, they will be criticized by the public, and the children themselves also have the burden.

However, the emergence of the form of sea burial makes it more convenient for future generations to worship their relatives. They don't have to rush back to the cemetery, and even if they can't come back to worship temporarily, they can have professional staff from the cemetery to worship on their behalf. At the same time, many cemeteries have launched various forms of worship such as "online worship" and "distant thoughts across the sea", which sounds very convenient and labor-saving.

2.3. It saves a lot of trouble for oneself, and there is no need to worry about the affairs after death.

Nowadays, the cemetery needs to be renewed every 20 years and pay the cemetery management fee. If the management fee is not renewed after it expires, the ashes will be cleaned up. Because of this reason, many elderly people are very worried about the future, worried that their children will not renew the management fee for them, and often entangle this issue, which is easy to cause family conflicts.

However, scattering ashes at sea completely dispels this concern. At the moment when the ashes are scattered into the sea, there is no need to worry about the affairs after death, and it truly achieves a complete solution, completely returning to nature, liberating oneself and children.

3. The cemetery is too expensive and I want to scatter the ashes into the sea. Is it illegal to sea bury privately?

Seeing this, many people may think: since there are so many benefits to sea burial, can't I just find a ditch and scatter the ashes?

Be careful! Improper private sea burial can not only make the father disappear but may also face imprisonment!

So, is private sea burial illegal?

Answer: Not only is it illegal, but it is also immoral.

3.1. According to China's "Public Security Administration Punishment Law", discarding someone else's bones or ashes can result in a detention of not more than five days; if the circumstances are serious, a detention of not more than fifteen days, and a fine of not more than one thousand yuan.

3.2. According to China's "Criminal Law", stealing a corpse, bones, or ashes is punishable by up to three years of fixed-term imprisonment, criminal detention, or public surveillance.

3.3. According to the person in charge of the Wuzhou Funeral Association, privately carrying out river burial activities in inland river waters violates relevant regulations because the sea area for scattering ashes must be a special area designated by the maritime department.

If you scatter ashes privately, the ashes are likely to gather at the bends where the water flow is slow, affecting the normal operation of ships on the river. This is because there will be different amounts and sizes of calcium substances in the ashes after the body is cremated. This substance is not easily soluble in water, and its volume is lighter than water, so it will not sink to the bottom but will float on the surface. If the ashes do not dissolve for a long time, they will gather in groups.

3.4. Privately scattering ashes is also an immoral act because the water in the city's inland rivers will pass through the city's drinking water sources along the way, polluting the residents' drinking water.

3.5. If you want to scatter ashes at sea, you need the unanimous consent of all close relatives to handle the ashes, otherwise, any close relative has the right to sue for infringement of his right to worship.

4. How can individuals apply for sea burial?

If you want to give the deceased a sea burial, there are three ways.

4.1. Apply for sea burial before cremation.

When the deceased's body is transported to the funeral home, the family can sign the "Ashes Sea Burial (Natural Burial) Enjoy Free Funeral Service Commitment" with the funeral home. After cremation, you can go to the designated sea scattering office to handle the sea burial registration business with this commitment, cremation certificate, and other relevant documents.

4.2. Apply for sea burial after cremation.

Applying after cremation mainly refers to: if the family is not sure which way to bury, and after cremation, when the ashes are stored and need to be renewed, the family suddenly wants to hold a funeral for the deceased by sea burial. This time belongs to the application after cremation, and the family needs to bring relevant documents to the sea scattering office to handle the sea burial registration business.

4.3. Private Charter Boat for Sea Burial Application

The above two methods are part of collective sea burials, utilizing collective sea burial boats and are of a public welfare nature, offering free sea burials. If some family members do not wish to conduct a sea burial with others and hope to provide a more solemn ceremony for the deceased, they can inquire at local funeral homes about one-on-one charter boat sea burial services. These services are generally managed by funeral companies, and the costs vary depending on different requirements.

5. There are many requirements for scattering ashes at sea; it is best to understand the relevant matters in advance before applying.

Many people think that sea burial is as simple as finding a ditch and scattering the ashes, but it is not. Although sea burial is cost-effective, the process is not less than that of cremation and has a complete set of procedures. Additionally, there are specific requirements for the selection of the site for sea burial.

  1. The site for sea burial must avoid fishing grounds, fishing spots, and some maritime traffic routes, and there should be no large gatherings of ships nearby. Once a vessel reaches the designated sea burial location, the subsequent sea burial procedures can be carried out.
  2. Before the sea burial, the body still needs to be cremated, and the resulting ashes require further processing. To prevent environmental pollution, large pieces of ashes cannot be scattered directly and must be ground into a powder (below 2mm) and wrapped in water-soluble paper.
  3. Sea burial is divided into two stages: scattering and burial. Which one to choose can be discussed with the funeral home staff, and of course, different options come with different costs.
  4. Scattering involves directly casting the ashes, accompanied by flower petals, into the sea; burial involves placing the ashes in a biodegradable urn and submerging it on the sea floor. The burial location will be marked with a navigation system indicating specific latitude and longitude coordinates, facilitating future family commemorations.

In Conclusion

In the future, from an environmental perspective, new types of funeral methods may replace traditional burials as the mainstream. Many people, influenced by traditional thinking, consider sea burial inauspicious. However, no matter what kind of funeral method is chosen, the ultimate outcome is to blend into nature.

I personally believe that instead of letting a cemetery plot purchased for hundreds of thousands of yuan become an "ownerless grave" in the future, it is more straightforward and decisive to cremate and scatter the ashes into the sea. The cycle of blooming and withering represents the cycle of life, originating from nature and returning to it. This approach not only embodies the advocated "green funeral" concept but also alleviates the funeral burden on future generations.

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