(Image: Mitchell Squire/Private Media)

The 51st Pacific Islands Forum leaders' meeting in Fiji has no shortage of agenda items.

The three Cs -- climate change, COVID-19, and (unofficially) China -- are set to dominate discussion, as will the internal politics threatening to derail it. But while Pacific leaders attempt to mollify Micronesian countries, settle scores with the Solomon Islands on security, and keep the focus on the Pacific rather than US announceables, ocean rights remain a key issue.

Against the backdrop of rising sea levels, island nations are fighting to hold on to their ocean rights and preserve their status as nation states. They have two options: international recognition of maritime zones which was a fixture of last year's forum, or land reclamation in the form of island raising. This possibility was raised by a number of island nations, including notable absentees from this year’s forum, Kiribati and Marshall Islands. At present there are no Pacific Islands actively pursuing land reclamation.