Shark Advocates International

  • Rays & Skates
  • Sharks
Years funded
  • 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014
  • Archived
Project type
  • Conservation

There are over 1,000 species of sharks and rays in our oceans. Sonja champions their fight by attending meetings all over the world, convincing policy-makers to show some love to even the smallest skate.

Shark Advocates International

Sonja Fordham

Project leader
About the project leader
I am an advocate. Not a scientist, a lawyer or a lobbyist – just a proud advocate for some of the oceans’ most vulnerable species. I take what scientists say about much needed limits on shark and ray fishing and try to get it reflected in policy. Advocacy in an often hostile environment was not a likely path for me. I was painfully shy as a child and my parents imagined I would live a quiet life, perhaps as a kindergarten teacher. It was thanks to those parents that I came to love nature at an early age, and by high...
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Project details

Building Shark Advocates International

Key objective

To provide leadership in advancing sound shark conservation policies through collaboration with a variety of organizations and decision makers.

Why is this important

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) classifies nearly one-third of the world’s 1044 assessed shark species (including rays and chimaeras) as Near Threatened or Threatened while some local populations are assumed already extinct. Scientists warn of negative consequences for marine ecosystems and biodiversity from depleting these predators. Fishermen and divers, and, in turn, coastal communities, also rely on healthy shark and ray populations.


Shark Advocates International was founded in order to fill the niche of serious, specialized policy work based on long-term, “in the trenches” experience in management forums and close association with shark scientists. Informed policy analysis and expert advocacy are essential elements for capitalizing on today’s heightened awareness of the sharks’ plight and ensuring that the ensuing conservation measures are prioritized, meaningful, and achieved.

The Save Our Seas Foundation is keenly aware that sharks are among the most valuable and vulnerable animals in the ocean. Most sharks serve as important predators, key to maintaining ecosystem balance, and are not well equipped to withstand heavy fishing pressure. In fact, most sharks are exceptionally susceptible to overfishing due to slow growth, late maturity and small numbers of young. This inherent vulnerability should put sharks at the front of the line for conservation action and yet too often the opposite is true. Low economic value relative to more traditional food-fish, along with negative images as “man-eaters” leave sharks near the bottom of managers’ priority lists. Lack of limits on shark fishing and trade in the face of strong demand for shark products is resulting in serious declines in shark populations around the world.

Aims & objectives

SAI works collaboratively to advance sound national, regional, and international policies for sharks and rays. We seek science-based limits on shark fishing and trade, protection for endangered species and stronger bans on finning.
Within the next year, we aim to have ensured

  • Additional plans and limits for sharks and rays at regional fisheries bodies
  • New safeguards for endangered and targeted European sharks, such as guitarfish, lowfin gulper sharks and shortfin makos
  • Stronger shark finning prohibitions in the US and Europe
  • Effective defense of current EU and US shark fishing limits and closures
  • Conservation plans for under-protected US species, such as cownose rays and hammerhead sharks.