This study evaluates local-scale drivers of shark harvests in India, one of the world’s largest shark fishing nations. Focusing on key harbours in the states of Gujarat and Maharashtra, which together contribute 54% of India’s shark harvest, this study uses a semi-structured survey to examine the practices of shark fishers and traders, their knowledge of shark trade and policy, and perceptions of shark declines. Findings indicate that a domestic market for shark meat is presently the main local driver for harvests rather than the global trade in shark fins. Sharks are mostly non-target catch, landed whole, contributing to the protein needs of coastal communities. Consumer demand is the greatest for small-bodied and juvenile sharks. Perceived steep declines in shark numbers and sizes have had economic impacts on fishers and traders. The unregulated domestic market for shark meat is a key challenge requiring nuanced local approaches that diverge from global shark conservation priorities.