Red-Listed Seafood (2023 Aug)

At a Glance

  • Madalyn Higgins, RD, the Dietitian and Sustainability Manager at Acadia Dining Services (provided by Chartwell’s Canada) worked with the students in NUTR 4913 Sustainable Food Systems and Dietary Patterns to address this target, providing them with a meaningful experiential learning opportunity. The students were all studying to become nutrition or health professionals, at least half of them intended on a career in dietetics.
The efforts of the students focused on three areas:
  • Understanding and communicating key messages about sustainable seafood.  Students put together a comprehensive review of existing research surrounding the topic and created communications tools to be displayed in the dining hall to inform staff and students about the negative effects of Red-Listed seafood and what steps they can take to minimize these effects.
  • Identifying Red-Listed seafood on the menu. Students investigated seafood sources to determine if they are on the Red List. This meant speaking with food system actors such as distributors and fisheries and comparing information to Ocean Wise resources.
  • Exploring strategies for more sustainable menu alternatives. Students proposed potential replacements using comparable items and looked for distributors.
  • The students presented their work to the dining hall’s Chef, Dietitian and Sustainability Manager, Director of Operations and Marketing Manager.
  • These efforts aimed to promote environmentally responsible dining practices at Acadia University while raising awareness about the importance of sustainable seafood sourcing.


Buying seafood that is Red-Listed has been recognized worldwide as a significant problem, as it is linked to major concerns for our fisheries and the health of the planet such as low fish stock numbers, destabilization of the ecosystem-wide food chain, and Irresponsible fishing practices that contribute to the destruction of our oceans.

With the growing population and growing appetite for fish and seafood in developed nations, billions of people around the world rely on fish and seafood as an essential source of protein and a means of income. Researchers have gathered that this seafood should not be made commercially available and alternative options need to be considered.

Organizations such as Seafood Watch, categorize red-listed seafood through different ranking systems tailored for various types of fishing such as fisheries and aquaculture, and score them based on their sustainability criteria.

The sum of the scores allow the seafood to fall into Green (good choice), Yellow (good alternative), or Red (avoid) categories. Other organizations such as Ocean-Wise and Aquaculture Stewardship Council also assess sustainability based on Seafood Watch’s sustainability scoring system  and convert the scores from three-fold to a binary system of Green and Red. Learn more…

Lessons Learnt:

  • Through research, students gathered that the problem is that there is a lot of complexity and lack of transparency surrounding the global seafood supply chain and what seafood is sustainable to eat.
  • There is a need to improve transparency regarding sustainable seafood and ability to access this information. The group learned about the importance of understanding these tools to identify relevant information about sustainable seafood options.
  • It is everyone’s responsibility to ensure sustainable seafood consumption. Policies should be put in place to regulate how seafood is being labeled sustainable.
  • While not easy, it is possible to identify unsustainable seafood sources and replace them with more sustainable sources.
  • Sustainably sourced seafood, such as recirculating aquaculture is not perfect but can create seafood options. These options can be much more expensive, and we rely on food and nutrition professionals to get creative in the kitchen to use them more sparingly.
  • The seafood that the students helped remove included the red-listed atlantic salmon and white shrimp that was being served in the Acadia dining hall.  Students gathered sustainable options to be presented as recommendations to replace these red-listed menu items. The better choices included the Ocean Wise-approved farmed Whiteleg shrimp and the Ocean Wise-approved farmed Giant Tiger shrimp. 

What Else? Other Relevant Examples

  • Recirculating aquaculture is Ocean Wise approved by fisheries worldwide and is often used for Atlantic salmon farming. Learn more…
  • Through the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, you can search ASC-certified seafood using a simple drop-down search. Learn more…
  • Organizations such as the Marine Conservation Society create resources to help educate students about ocean sustainability. Learn more…
  • Nourish Canada has developed a Sustainable Menu Guide that can guide menus for organizations such as University campuses. The menu guide simplifies efforts o create sustainable menus that reduce environmental impact while offering healthy, affordable, acceptable, and fair food to clients.  While not specific to sustainable seafood, it is more broadly helpful with practical examples.

Food for Thought
How do we ensure that we have aquatic resources for the future, especially with the growing demand?
What kind of tools are effective or needed to empower and educate consumers to make sustainable choices?
What supports do food service providers need to serve sustainable seafood choices?

Contact Information
Madalyn Higgins,

Thank you to Naomi Kereliuk for facilitating this case study!

Small Producer’s Symbol (SPP)

At a Glance:

  • SPP is “an intercontinental network of ecological small-producer organizations” with independent certification
  • Only 100% producer-driver collective for fairly traded and ecologically sustainable foods
  • This unique structure guarantees that prices are based on real cost of production and free of producer exploitation
  • Combines social and ecological sustainability criteria in one certification

Fair Trade Certifications

In a world where food supply chains increasingly stretch across the globe, buying foods produced closer to where they are consumed is one effective strategy for being able to trace, understand and choose supply chains that are more sustainable. Focusing menus on seasonal produce and local procurement are effective paths forward for contributing to local economies, supporting local production capacity and resulting food security, and facilitating transparency and accountability around production practices.

Some foods, however, can only be produced in certain ecological regions and parts of the world and can only be obtained through trade. For temperate countries these include coffee, cacao and sugar in addition to tropical fruits and vegetables. Third party certifications that establish standards and criteria around production practices and trade relationships are one strategy for tracing the environmental and social impacts and striving for sustainability of these foods across long distances where producers and consumers cannot interact directly. Many fair trade certifications exist (see ‘What Else?’ box) and it is important to understand their strengths and weaknesses in terms of standards and accountability.

Small Producer Symbol

The Small Producer Symbol (SPP) was launched in 2006. It is the only 100% producer-driven collective that provides independent certification for fairly traded and ecological products. SPP is the culmination of the evolution of various small producer networks and movements starting in the 1960s. It was created in response to the challenges and continuing inequities faced by small producers working to meet consumer-driven fair trade certifications. Without equal representation from and decision making power in the hands of producers, consumer-driven fair trade certifications may fail to represent producer perspectives, consider producer-specific challenges, and cover the real costs of production.

The Small Producers Symbol consists of 120 small producers’ organizations representing 50 million families across Latin America-Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Products from 30 countries are certified by SPP and sold in 50 consumer countries. SPP represents a simple but powerful shift in the mechanics of fair trade by centring producer voices and concerns in the process of determining what ‘fair’ prices and criteria are, while offering consumers traceability of products and transparency on production techniques and organizational structures.

As a producer-driven initiative, the SPP independent certification represents:

  1. Solidarity between organized small producers, committed companies and consumers
  2. High quality organic, agroecological and healthy products
  3. Prices based on real cost of production and free of exploitation
  4. Complete supply chain traceability
  5. Living income for producers

SPP strives to “build a local and global market that values the identity and the economic, social, cultural and ecological contributions of their products and organizations, in a relationship based on collaboration, trust and co-responsibility among men and women who are small producers, buyers and consumers.” (SPP, 2018)

What Else? Other Relevant Examples

Food for Thought
What aspects of social sustainability feel most relevant to your work?
What role can certifications play in helping your organization or community set and meet social sustainability targets?
How important does it feel to have producer voices equitably represented in determining certification criteria and standards?

Contact Information
WhatsApp: +52-1-55-6375-5572                    Telephone: +52-55-5264-7205
Website:             Email:
Address: Calzada de Tlalpan No. 3267 Int. 304, 3er piso, Santa Úrsula Coapa, Covoacán, C.P. 04650 CDMX, México

NeverEndingFood Permaculture (Malawi)

At a Glance

  • NeverEndingFood (NEF) Permaculture is a home and community outreach that demonstrates approaches to all aspects of sustainable living, focused on resources indigenous to Malawi.
  • People create sustainable designs for their homes, offices, schools, churches, cities, etc. such as food forests, fuel efficient kitchens, water harvesting, composting toilets etc. for diverse production of foods, fuel, fodder, fibres, medicines, etc. for better nutrition, water and soil conservation and to transition away from synthetic seed and chemical inputs.

In April of 1997, Stacia and Kristof Nordin came to Malawi through the U.S. Peace Corps to do HIV prevention work. Stacia is a Registered Dietitian and Kristof is a social worker by training. Over time, they came to see HIV in the way that the village they were in saw it—as part of a whole. They began to see that a disease that attacks the immune system is connected to malnutrition that compromises the immune system which is connected to the diversity of foods being grown locally which is connected to soil fertility and fresh water availability and so on—an interconnected cycle.

During this time they were introduced to the concepts of permaculture which emphasize:

  1. Care for the earth
  2. Care for people
  3. Fair share of all resources

The Nordins, joined by their daughter Khalidwe in 2001, integrate permaculture into all aspects of their life. They created NeverEndingFood (NEF), their home in Chitedze, a small village about 30 km from the capital city, Lilongwe. Their home serves as a permaculture demonstration as well as a space to train interns and host visitors.

At NEF, they implement a well-design system that provide perennial, year-round access to diverse and nutritious foods and medicines. This approach helps families be more self-sufficient, have access to better nutrition, save money by reducing dependency on expensive agricultural inputs, and access additional income through food processing, diversified markets and unique product ideas. They multiply indigenous resources and share them for others to multiply further.

The advent of input-dependent, mono-culture farming on much of Malawi’s agricultural land led to an agricultural focus and dependence on maize as the primary crop. In spite of being blessed with a tropical climate and plentiful water, most farms now produce one maize crop a year leading to malnutrition due to the reliance on a single crop for the bulk of people’s nutritional needs. In line with traditional farming practices around the world, permaculture diversifies agriculture production to include local fruits and vegetables, animals and animal products, spices and fibres. This improves nutrition while conserving water, improving soil fertility and converting organic matter into a resource!

The Nordins believe that “all solutions come from the people themselves, which helps to provide the self-confidence and ownership that it will take to address future problems in a sustainable way.” Along with the work happening in Chitedze, the efforts and relationships at NEF have initiated and inspired many other projects that use an integrated permaculture approach to address sustainability and nutrition. Recognizing and incorporating these interconnections means that many of the initiatives simultaneously contribute to healthier and more diverse ecosystems, better human health and nutrition, community wellness, and economic resilience.

Food for Thought
What indigenous species do YOU know where YOU are? How are the global, industrialized food and agriculture systems influencing food production in your area?
Keeping these broader systems in mind, what solutions do you see that offer synergistic improvements in nutrition AND sustainability? 

Contact Information
Stacia and Kristof Nordin

updated 2023 April

Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population (2014, 2019)

At a Glance

  • National guidelines published by Ministry of Health of Brazil in 2014
  • In 2019 Brazil developed Dietary Guidelines for children under 2 years old
  • There are resources on there website for citizens as well as health professionals, community workers, educators, and capacity building trainers
  • Offers a unique industrializing nation perspective
  • Available in Spanish, Portuguese and English

The 2014 Dietary Guidelines for the Brazilian Population (DGBP) are the second edition of official national dietary guidelines for the country. The creation of these guidelines involved a public consultation process “that allowed its broad debate by various sectors of society and guided the construction of the final version” (pg. 6).

In 2019 Brazil developed Dietary Guidelines for children under 2 years old. There are several other products and resources for different target audiences on their website.

The guidelines are remarkable for a number of reasons. They:

  1. Encompass biological, social, cultural, economic and political aspects of healthy diets and take a holistic approach that integrates nutrition and sustainability.
  2. Make relevant connections between the nutritional quality of food and the social and environmental impacts of food production and distribution as well as economic sustainability, especially for small, sustainable producers.
  3. Recognize and celebrate the “knowledge implicit in the creation and development of traditional dietary patters” (pg. 21).
  4. Explicitly identify the impact of the processed food industry and how rapidly shifting food environments flooded with processed and ultra-processed foods from a globalized market present a particular challenge to healthy and sustainable diets as well as local agricultural ecosystems and economies.

The DGBP are unique amongst national dietary guidelines in offering an industrializing nation perspective that focuses on the rapid changes in dietary patterns and food systems being experienced by economically emerging countries. These include shifts towards more industrialized food systems that are “displacing natural or minimally processed foods of plant origin…and the preparation of meals based on these foods with industrialized food products that are ready for consumption…[leading to] various ill-effects including an imbalance in the supply of nutrients and an excess of dietary energy.” (pg. 17).

Speaking from and to the experience of being in the midst of this dietary transition, the guidelines clearly articulate the detrimental influence and impact of the processed food industry and misleading food advertising. They note a transition in “the environment in which food is sold, bought and consumed…[with] thousands of branded ultra-processed foods” being easily available and heavily promoted while at the same time “natural or minimally processed foods are sold in well-stocked supermarkets that quite often are a distance from where people live and work” (pg. 107).

These guidelines are particularly relevant for industrializing countries undergoing rapid industrialization of food systems and experiencing both under- and over-nutrition and developing dietary guidelines for the first time. They offer robust examples of language around:

  • a vision for healthy and sustainable diets
  • valuing and celebrating the knowledge embedded in traditional dietary patterns
  • the links between health and the social, economic and environmental sustainability of food production
  • the importance of cultural aspects of food such as cooking skills and eating together
  • the influence of the processed food industry

Contact Information
Ministry of Health of Brazil