Area-based conservation is essential to safeguard declining biodiversity. Several approaches have been developed for identifying networks of globally important areas based on the delineation of sites or seascapes of importance for various elements of biodiversity (e.g., birds, marine mammals). Sharks, rays, and chimaeras are facing a biodiversity crisis with an estimated 37% of species threatened with extinction driven by overfishing. Yet spatial planning tools often fail to consider the habitat needs critical for their survival. The Important Shark and Ray Area (ISRA) approach is proposed as a response to the dire global status of sharks, rays, and chimaeras. A set of four globally standardized scientific criteria, with seven sub-criteria, was developed based on input collated during four shark, biodiversity, and policy expert workshops conducted in 2022. The ISRA Criteria provide a framework to identify discrete, three-dimensional portions of habitat important for one or more shark, ray, or chimaera species, that have the potential to be delineated and managed for conservation. The ISRA Criteria can be applied to all environments where sharks occur (marine, estuarine, and freshwater) and consider the diversity of species, their complex behaviors and ecology, and biological needs. The identification of ISRAs will guide the development, design, and application of area-based conservation initiatives for sharks, rays, and chimaeras, and contribute to their recovery.