Ireland's maritime area extends to almost seven times our land mass, one of the largest sea to land ratios of any EU State. This area includes our internal waters, territorial seas, exclusive economic zone (EEZ) and our continental shelf. It covers nearly 500,000 km2 and stretches out to 200 nautical miles in some places. This ocean space is a vast national asset. Developing resources above and below the seabed can have many benefits for Ireland. However, this must be done in a planned way, to protect our rich biodiversity and manage resources. It is the government's role through policy, planning and legislation, to ensure the development of Ireland's marine resources is sustainable.