Ocean Conservancy’s Sonja Fordham Receives Prestigious Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award

Fifteen Years of Outstanding National and International Advocacy Efforts Recognized by the Shark Research Institute

Ocean Conservancy’s Sonja Fordham Receives Prestigious Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award
Recipients of the Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Awards 2007. L-R: Jason Holmberg, Ecocean; Sonja Fordham, Ocean Conservancy; and Rob Stewart, Sharkwater. Also pictured are Wendy Benchley and Stan Waterman, President of the Shark Research Institute.

Washington, DC — Today, Sonja Fordham, Shark Conservation Program Director at the Ocean Conservancy, receives the prestigious Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award from the Shark Research Institute for her tireless advocacy efforts to conserve sharks around the world. The Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Awards were created by the Shark Research Institute to draw attention to the urgent need for shark conservation and to highlight leaders who work internationally to protect sharks.  The awards come at a time when sharks are increasingly targeted and the number of species considered to be threatened is growing.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award and to be associated with Peter Benchley, who spent so much of his last decades working to dispel myths about sharks and publicize their true plight,” said Sonja Fordham, Shark Conservation Program Director at Ocean Conservancy. “With his help, there has been much progress in shark conservation over the last 15 years. Yet we must build on this success at an accelerated pace, if we are to safeguard shark species from overfishing and save others from extinction.  I am hopeful that the awareness generated by these awards will encourage many others to act on behalf of these imperiled ocean animals.  Such action is crucial to ensuring that Mr. Benchley’s message, and the sharks for which he fought, live on.”

Ms. Fordham has led the Ocean Conservancy’s efforts to conserve sharks and closely-related skates and rays for more than 15 years.  In this time, she has worked to promote sound shark fishing policies by bridging the gap between scientists and policy makers and encouraging concerned citizens to speak up for sharks. Fordham has been a leading advocate in several significant conservation achievements including the first U.S. Atlantic fishing limits and protection for sharks and skates, the U.S. Shark Finning Prohibition Act, the first international measures to ban finning, limit skate catch and restrict shark trade, and the first U.S. marine fish (smalltooth sawfish) listing under the U.S. Endangered Species Act. 

“Shark conservation is essential to our mission of ocean conservation, and we are proud of Sonja’s dedication and accomplishments that are helping the Ocean Conservancy to reach those goals,” said Vikki Spruill, President & CEO of the Ocean Conservancy. “Sonja is an amazing part of our team and we look forward to seeing her achieve even more success.”

In addition to her position at the Ocean Conservancy, Ms. Fordham serves as Policy Director of the Brussels-based Shark Alliance and Deputy Chair for the IUCN (World Conservation Union) Shark Specialist Group, and as a member of the Board of the American Elasmobranch Society.  She also maintains appointments to numerous government advisory panels related to shark and ray fisheries management.