Your Guide to Funeral Planning | 12.29.2022

Here's Everything You Need To Know About Coral Reef Burial

Here's Everything You Need To Know About Coral Reef Burial

Reviewed By: William Prout

Cross Checked By: Elizabeth Siegel

Coral Reef Burials, A New Way To Bid Goodbye To The Departed

For centuries now, civilizations across the world have had different types of burials to honor their sentiments and beliefs. From decorated coffins and water burials to hanging coffins and sky burials, humans across different parts of the planet have their own unique customs to say farewell to their loved ones after death. With time, old traditions may fade away and new customs may replace them. 

In recent years, one such new trend that has been gaining popularity is the green coral reef burial. It is widely considered one of the many ways to regenerate the dying marine habitats that are corals. This makes it quite popular among people considering a sustainable type of burial or cremation for their remains. 

So, What Are Coral Reef Burials Anyway? 

A coral reef burial is a practice of mixing the ashes of a cremated person with the materials used to make a reef ball. The reef ball is then placed on the ocean bed to help rejuvenate the coral environment. So, although the term uses the word ‘burial,’ a coral reef burial actually involves cremating the person who has passed away. 

The History Of The Coral Reef Burial

Before it became a type of burial, this practice was initially an attempt to revive the marine coral ecosystem. It first began when diver Don Brawley and his college roommate Todd Barber — both with a passion for diving — decided to do something about restoring the declining health of coral reefs in the ocean. 

That’s why they invented the reef ball, which mimics the natural marine environment and helps corals survive and thrive. The first reef ball project was completed in 1992, and in the decades since, over 750,000 reef balls have been introduced into the oceans. 

But in 1998, the first coral reef burial was performed when Brawley’s father-in-law expressed his desire to have his ashes mixed with the concrete used to make reef balls. This wish was honored after his passing, making it the first green coral reef burial in the history of the world.

How Do Coral Reef Burials Work?

There are different stages in the process of a coral reef burial, which is vastly different from a traditional burial or cremation. Here is a closer look at how coral reef burials work.

Stage 1: The cremation

Interestingly, the first stage of a coral reef burial is cremation. You can choose to have a traditional cremation or a flameless cremation for your loved one after their passing. After the cremation, the process of preparing the reef ball with your ashes will begin.

Stage 2: The making of the reef ball

Reef balls are typically made from eco-friendly concrete and natural materials that support marine life in the coral ecosystem. Reef burial companies will add the ashes of your loved one to these materials and then craft a hollow reef ball using the mix. Some companies even videotape the whole procedure, so you can rest assured that the ashes of your loved one are used in the manner required.

Stage 3: Personalizing your reef ball

You can even personalize the reef ball in many ways, if the company you choose allows this. For instance, some reef ball creators allow family and friends to leave messages or wet handprints on the concrete before it sets. Others allow you to install a brass medallion with the departed’s name, date of birth and death, and a few kind words — much like a headstone.

Stage 4: Taking the reef ball out to sea

Once the reef ball has been created, it is then taken out to sea in a boat. Sometimes, the company making the reef ball itself offers these services. Alternatively, others may partner with professional mariners who can help you identify legal sinking areas to drop the reef ball into the ocean. 

How Much Does A Reef Burial Cost?

This type of burial may be a bit on the pricier end of the spectrum since it involves a lot of customized services. Typically, coral reef burials may range from $4,000 to $9,000. The bigger the reef ball and the more the customizations chosen, the higher the price will be. 

Should You Opt For A Coral Reef Burial?

A coral reef burial may be the ideal choice if your loved one was an ocean lover or preferred to prioritize sustainability. It may be the perfect way to honor them after they are gone, in a way that they would have loved. Alternatively, if they expressly wished to have a coral reef burial, it goes without saying that this is the fitting way to bid them goodbye on their last journey down to the ocean bed.