Sonja Fordham has been a leading proponent of numerous landmark shark conservation actions, including the first US fishing limits for Atlantic sharks and rays. Fordham has co-authored numerous publications on shark fisheries management and is a member of various shark, skate, and Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) advisory panels, including the International Commission for Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) US Advisory Committee. She regularly attends annual ICCAT meetings as part of the US delegation and has participated as an observer to meetings associated with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC), and the “Kobe” joint tuna RFMO process. Fordham is deputy chair of the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Shark Specialist Group and conservation committee chair for the American Elasmobranch Society.
From 1991–2009, Fordham directed shark conservation projects at the Ocean Conservancy. In mid-2006, she began a three-and-a-half year assignment in Brussels as policy director for the Shark Alliance, a coalition formed to improve European shark policies. She founded Shark Advocates International as a project of The Ocean Foundation in May 2010. Her work has focused on publicizing the plight of sharks and advocating science-based shark policies before fishery management and wildlife conservation bodies.
Sonja Fordham received a US Department of Commerce Environmental Hero Award in 2000, a Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council Fishery Achievement Award in 2004, and the inaugural Peter Benchley Shark Conservation Award in 2007. In 2008, Washingtonian magazine named her one of 30 local Eco-Heroes.