Stephen Frink/Getty Images

DCL

Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, and a man who knew a thing or two about oceans, once said: "If we kill everything in the ocean, and if we pollute the ocean to a point where it can't sustain life, we're committing suicide." Perhaps the most important aspect of Benchley's warning is his use of the word "we." Over 40% of the world's oceans are heavily impacted by human activities with few areas—if any—left unaffected by anthropogenic factors. This means we humans—and what we deem civilization—have played a major role in the despoiling of the earth's oceans. It's not some unstoppable force of nature or preordained theology that 90% of the large fish are gone or that the world's worst polluter is the U.S. Department of Defense. Human decisions have led us to where we are now and new human decisions are needed to forge a new, more logical and compassionate path. After all, the health of the ocean reflects the health of the planet.

Did you know that 80% of all life on Earth is found in the oceans and those same maltreated oceans provide vital sources of protein, energy, and minerals? To that, the folks at Greenpeace add: "The rolling of the sea across the planet creates over half our oxygen, drives weather systems and natural flows of energy and nutrients around the world, transports water masses many times greater than all the rivers on land combined, and keeps the Earth habitable. Without the global ocean there would be no life on Earth."

9 Ways We Can Save the Ocean, and Save Ourselves

1. Save the whales:

Since 5000 B.C., humans have seen fit to hunt these magnificent marine mammals. The results, predictably, have been disastrous for whales and the ocean. Greenpeace reports: "The blue whales of the Antarctic are at less than 1 percent of their original abundance, despite 40 years of complete protection.? Sure, the phrase "save the whales" may sound like punch line but unless we take action, this is no joke. Any creature as large as a whale plays a http://cm.howstuffworks.com/list-template.php?step2large role in the delicate balance of the ocean food chain. When that balance is upset, the impact hits us all. Whale eat zooplankton, zooplankton eat phytoplankton, phytoplankton remove carbon from the atmosphere, we have too much carbon in the atmosphere. If whales don't eat zooplankton (because they don't exist) we'll have overgrowth and lose our essential carbon cleaning phytoplankton. See how it's all connected?

2. Save the sharks, too:

As reported by the Humane Society International, between 50 and 100 million sharks are killed each year around the world. Many of these sharks are unintended "by-catch" by vessels fishing for high-value species such as swordfish and tuna, but every year, millions of sharks are increasingly a target for their fins. Sharks may not be the most lovable creature in the oceans, but they need our help. Without such top-of-food-chain predators the ocean's balance cannot exist.

3. Say no to drilling:

Among many other problems, offshore drilling results in a wide range of health and reproductive problems for fish and other marine life, exposes wildlife to the threat of oil spills, and destroys kelp beds, reefs, and coastal wetlands. Let's step up, folks, this is our fight, too.

4. Offer reef relief: "Coral reefs are made predominantly of stony corals and supported by the limestone skeleton they excrete,? says Jennifer Horton of HowStuffWorks.com. "These rainforests of the sea are home to a quarter of all marine fish species. In addition to the variety of marine life they support, coral reefs are also immensely beneficial to humans, buffeting coastal regions from strong waves and storms, providing millions of people with food and jobs and prompting advances in modern medicine." All too predictably, human behavior is their biggest threat and 70 percent of coral reefs may be gone in less than 40 years if the present rate of destruction continues. To help conjure up solutions, educate yourself and get involved now. 5. Reduce your carbon footprint: Yep, whether it's ocean acidification or disappearing kelp forest or sea level rise, climate change is a player and therefore all the same suggestions hold true. Until we lower our carbon footprint, real change is not possible. 6. No more plastic bottles: The planet's largest landfill is floating in the North Pacific Ocean. Thanks to swirling ocean currents, much of the world's trash has accumulated into this part of the Pacific Ocean. How much trash? According to HowStuffWorks.com, every square mile of ocean hosts 46,000 pieces of floating plastic and plastic constitutes 90% of all trash floating in the world's oceans. Step one: Kick the plastic bottle habit. 7. Practice green surfing: Surfing—unlike, say, motor boats and jet skis—requires the participant to commune with the ocean and trust its power. Even so, like everything else, it could be greener. Listen to the folks at GreenSurf.org: "Traveling to surf can produce a lot of CO2 emissions, and this is what's driving global warming, which spells big trouble for our ocean environments and surf spots." Their answer is the CarbonFree Surfing program, which allows you dudes and dudettes "to calculate the CO2 footprint of your next surf trip, and then to offset it's climate impact with an online donation (tax deductible) that supports the purchase of CO2 offsets, from climate-friendly projects like reforestation in Nicaragua or even clean power from renewable power projects." Perhaps the best place to learn about the green surfing movement is the Surfrider Foundation. 8. Be kind to your beach: We humans love the beach but that doesn't mean we're always kind to the beach. Our indifference can result in beach erosion and widespread pollution. Don't litter, don't leave trash at the beach, don't use the beach as a toilet, and get involved in beach clean-up. 9. Cut back on fish, eat sustainable fish, or quit eating fish completely: Overfishing is a huge component of the ocean's decline. Those opting for a vegan diet have already eliminated the justification for destructive practices like trawling. The equation couldn't be any simpler: if humans choose to not eat fish, or choose sustainable fish in moderate quantities, the ocean's fish population will have a chance to return. In addition, show some support for the Greenpeace plan to protect 40% of the world's oceans as Marine Reserves. Learn more about Water Issues, Dive into Blue August on Planet Green and PlanetGreen.com.