September 13, 2010; Source: Associated Press | A nonprofit conservation group would like to see the U.N. put some teeth into protections meant to save the world’s shark population. The Pew Environment Group is calling for regulations that, among other things, would put an end to fishing threatened and near-threatened shark species and adopt conservation plans to study and impose scientific limits on the size of catches.

The group also wants to end shark finning, a practice in which fishersmen slice off the fins, which sell for hundreds of dollars a pound to make soup, then dump the shark back in the water to drown or bleed to death. Finning kills an estimated 73 million sharks a year.

According to the Associated Press, sharks are more vulnerable to over-fishing than some other species because they are slow-growing and late to mature and thus unable to replenish their populations as quickly as they are caught.

While you might expect that only a group of diehard scientists or marine biologists would be leading the effort to protect the sharks, that’s anything but the case. A press conference at the United Nations on Monday to call attention to dwindling shark populations around the world featured nine individuals who survived shark attacks, including some that have lost limbs.

Forty-four year old Debbie Salamone, whose Achilles tendon was severed in a 2004 attack, told reporters, “If a group like us can see the value in saving sharks, can’t everyone?” Even though he lost his right hand and lower right leg last year, Navy diver Paul de Gelder, 33, of Sydney, Australia, asked, “Do we have the right to drive any animal to the brink of extinction before any action is taken?”—Bruce Trachtenberg