Conservation: I Sea Dead People

By Kate Howell

Photo by Derry Huff

Jerry Norman wants you to sleep with the fishes. But don’t worry, he won’t push you off a pier in concrete shoes. Norman is the CEO of the Neptune Society, a cremation service that enables you to stay eco from beyond the grave. “Isn’t it better giving something back for eternity?” he says.

Located off the Florida Keys, Neptune Memorial Reef houses cremated remains and memorial plaques—and also provides a home for corals and aquatic life. The first remains were placed in December 2007, and Norman says the reef is already attracting fish. Though Neptune is the first and largest artificial reef burial site, several other companies offer methods of encasing one’s remains in smaller eternal reefs, or “reef balls.”

Artificial reefs can be anything from a sunken ship to cement structures designed to house marine creatures—recently, they’ve been used for conservation purposes as natural corals suffer from pollution, acidification, and bleaching. 

If you’re thinking of spending forever in the briny deep, make sure to do your homework. Researchers agree that artificial reefs can provide marine species with necessary shelter and food but must be built with conservation in mind. “One size will not fit all,” says Bill Lindberg, an aquatic scientist at the University of Florida. “You can’t make a blanket statement about all artificial reefs.”

If you’ve got love for the seas but artificial reefs sound a little too, well, fishy, consider donating money to marine charities like the Ocean Conservancy or  the Global Coral Reef Alliance.     

Issue 25

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