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Is it legal scatter ashes in the sea in Spain?

The Royal Decree 218/2022, of March 29, modifies the Royal Decree 79/2019 of February 22, which regulates the compatibility report and establishes the compatibility criteria for the economic activity of placing funeral urns or funeral ashes at sea with marine strategies.

This Royal Decree's main purpose is to update Annex II of Royal Decree 79/2019, of February 22, to the environmental objectives of the second cycle marine strategies.

Regarding the economic activity of placing funeral urns or ashes at sea, it has been concluded that, in general, these are actions compatible with marine strategies, as long as they meet a series of requirements. To this end, two new sections are added to article 7, and Annex III of Royal Decree 79/2019, of February 22, is amended to establish as a specific compatibility criterion the presentation of a responsible declaration by the applicant.

The two new sections, 5a and 6, of article 7, dictate that the compatibility report will be replaced by a duly completed and signed responsible declaration, which will be directed to the corresponding Captaincy, which will inform the Provincial Coast Service in its capacity to verify the compliance of what is declared.

The anticipated responsible declaration must comply with a minimum content provided in section d of Annex III regarding Funeral Urns.

In the responsible declaration, the declarant assumes that the action is compatible with the environmental and specific objectives of the Marine Strategy in the Marine Demarcation, approved by Royal Decree 1365/2018, of November 2, and in particular, with the environmental objectives included in Annex II of Royal Decree 79/2019, of February 22.


  1. That the declarant is aware of the natural values of the area in which the placement will take place, so its development will be carried out in such a way that neither the seabed, nor the habitats, nor the species that inhabit the marine environment will suffer any affectation.

  2. That the placement of urns or funeral ashes at sea will be located in areas where there is no presence of protected habitats or species. Royal Decree 139/2011.

  3. That it guarantees by certificate that the urns placed at sea are biodegradable.

  4. That no dumping at sea will be carried out along with the urn of other ornamental objects or personal items nor will any object different from the urn or ashes be poured from the vessel, with the only exception of floral offerings made of natural petals, never bouquets.

  5. That motorboats during the activity will respect the maximum speed allowed minimizing noise and risk of collisions with marine fauna.

  6. That the entity will maintain a register in which the services carried out with an indication of their date and geographical coordinates are recorded.

  7. That it commits to provide the information to the competent body if required.

  8. That it will comply with all applicable environmental regulations.

Sanctioning regime

Law 41/2010, of December 29, on the protection of the marine environment, which is the norm that regulates the dumping at sea of waste or other materials from ships does not contain a specific sanctioning regime, referring to sectoral legislation, hence we must refer to Law 22/1988, of July 28, on Coasts. This norm, in the absence of specific regulation, already established the prohibition of unauthorized dumping.

According to the Coast Law, the performance of unauthorized dumping is classified as a minor offense, foreseeing a sanction of up to 60,000.00 Euros. If there is a recurrence within a two-year period, the offense is considered serious, in which case the penalty range is up to 300,000 Euros.

For its graduation, the general criteria will be followed:

  1. a) The degree of culpability or the existence of intentionality.
  2. b) The continuity or persistence in the offending conduct.
  3. c) The nature of the damages caused.
  4. d) Recidivism

The Royal Legislative Decree 2/2011, of September 5, which approves the Consolidated Text of the Law of State Ports and the Merchant Navy, on its part, also foresees fines of up to 3,005,000 Euros for the following conduct.

"a) The deliberate evacuation from ships or fixed platforms or other constructions located in waters in areas where Spain exercises sovereignty, sovereign rights, or jurisdiction, of waste, debris, or other materials loaded on board or deposited for that purpose, unless there is the due dumping authorization or it is not required according to the provisions of the current specific legislation."

It does not seem that a fine for deliberately dumping ashes into the water could be in the indicated amounts but it would be necessary to see what is resolved in specific situations.

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