• Jacob Bourne

Laid to Rest Beside the Corals: Memorial Reefs Offers Special Funeral Package

Global average temperatures continue to rise alongside pollution, accelerating the demise of the oceans' coral reefs. However, life continues for people, including inevitable death and subsequent funeral preparations. Memorial Reefs International is a business that is working to addresses both of these issues simultaneously by offering underwater funerals for families whose loved ones’ cremated remains are entombed within artificial reefs designed to help provide habitat for struggling marine life.

coral living on artificial reef
Memorial reef with advanced coral. Credit: Memorial Reefs International

This month Memorial Reefs began offering a $500 discount for all funeral packages ordered in 2021 to be applied to subsequent dedications scheduled for next year. Funeral services, including the artificial reef monuments, start at $2,995 but can cost as much as $7,995 for a package that offers two memorial reef monuments, a multi-day event with four attendees, and a chartered boat to the undersea memorial garden, among other interment activities.

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In addition to providing a unique final resting place for the deceased, Memorial Reefs states its goal of restoring marine reef ecosystems, such as bolstering fish biomass and coral regeneration. The artificial reefs are made of concrete with a pH adjusted to suit coral biology and don’t contain rebar and other additives that would be detrimental to marine life. According to Memorial Reefs International’s Danny Santiago, corals won’t attach to ordinary concrete, so the company sources its products from The Reef Ball Foundation, a nonprofit that supplies artificial reef habitats.

“We know as humans that we're destroying a lot more of the habitat than is being created, and there's really no reversing it, but we can kind of slow it down a little bit by giving creatures a place to call home that is new to them,” said Santiago. “As soon as the memorial reefs get in the water and hit the bottom, fish start swimming inside of them.”

2021 is the first full year of offering memorial services, and Santiago expects to complete a total of between 25 and 30 by year’s end. Memorial Reefs is currently conducting most of its services off of U.S. coastlines; however, the company plans to cover international waters.

Eternal Reef, a nonprofit with similar offerings, has been providing artificial reef burials since 1998.

In a process called ocean acidification, excess carbon dioxide from human activities dissolves in the ocean, becoming carbonic acid that harms aquatic life by dissolving shells of organisms and stressing fish. Along with warming ocean temperatures and other pollution, it’s also pushing corals toward extinction.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs protect coastlines from storms and erosion and are a source of food and new medicines. It’s estimated that over half a billion people depend on coral reefs for food, income and protection. The global net economic value of coral reefs is tens of billions of U.S. dollars.


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