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A first in Canada: Cremated remains can be turned into a living ocean reef

A Living Reef Memorial.
A Living Reef Memorial. Living Reef Memorial Facebook

For the first time in Canada, residents will have another option for a green burial – to become part of a living reef in the waters off British Columbia.

“It’s been in existence for about 15 years down in California and in November I got the rights to bring it up into Canada,” said Kevin Owens, director of Living Reef Memorial Canada.

“It was a process, it probably took me about eight months or so dealing with [the Department of] Oceans and Fisheries and the local municipalities, Transport Canada, as well as the licensing from Living Reef itself.”

The idea behind Living Reef is simple: cremated remains are placed into a mold, made into an artificial reef and then placed in the ocean.

“When Living Reef Memorial acquires the cremated remains of somebody, whether they’re sent directly from a family to Living Reef or from another funeral home, they are incorporated into a mold, which is consisting of seashells, low alkaline cement, sand and the human remains themselves,” explained Owens.

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“They are placed into a scientifically-engineered mold that is, once the cure time is completed [and it’s set], which is about 30 days, it is ready to be deployed and placed in various locations, not too far off the coast. They are 200 to 300 yards off the coast into the ocean at depths that range between about 45 to 75 feet. And what they do is they create an artificial habitat for marine life, starting from the smallest of the algae and going up to the fifth ledge, the fish and salmons, which then help out all different marine life from the sea otters all the way up to the orcas.”

Right now there are multiple deployment sites around Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands, one by Bowen Island and one in Semiahmoo Bay.

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Prices range from $600 to $4,000.

Owens said the Living Reef Memorial is an alternative to scattering cremated remains.

“I’ve been a funeral director as well for about 20 years… and the amount of cremated remains that get placed into the ocean is huge,” he said. “There’s biodegradable urns, there’s people that just scatter on the beach. The cremated remains themselves are inert, they don’t do damage to the environment, unless you’re going to be pouring them directly onto a plant and that’s only because they have a really high sodium base and the salt actually damages plants. But the salt doesn’t affect the ocean, it’s like a teardrop. The amount that’s going in to the ocean isn’t a great volume.”

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There are different options for the living reef, whether a person wants to be placed by themselves, with a loved one or their family.

Partial proceeds from the sale of the Living Reef Memorial also go to the Sea Turtle Rescue Project.

To learn more about the Living Reef Memorial, go to their website.