Pest Control in Seafood Processing Plants

A Variety of Pests Are Associated With Seafood Processing Plants

There are a variety of pests associated with seafood processing plants. What types of pests depends on both the geographic location of the plant and the type of seafood that is being processed.

Sprague Pest Solutions’ service footprint extends from Alaska to California and as a result they deal with a variety of flying and crawling pests in and around seafood processing facilities on land and at sea.

Why are seafood processing plants attractive to pests? Seafood and the associated food waste and abundance of moisture that comes with the production process, is a desirable to pests including birds, rodents, flies and certain species of wildlife. Some of the ‘pests’ are not what you would expect. In Alaska, native wildlife including bears, eagles and foxes have been known to attempt to gain access to a plant through an open door in search of their next meal.

Pests gaining access to a seafood processing – or any food processing facility – can damage,  destroy or contaminate food. Plants must have robust pest management programs to protect   the quality of the products produced there, safeguard consumers, avoid failed third-party audits and inspections, product recalls and financial losses.

Why Pest Control is Important

Pest control is often ignored until pests and their damage are discovered. For example, if rodents or insects are found in a food storage room, temporary measures are taken to eliminate them. The real trouble, however, is not corrected.

Sustained and robust pest control programs, including inspecting incoming food for evidence of insects or rodents before storing it, rodent proofing the room, storing the food off the floor, keeping the room clean, and inspecting the room for insect and rodent activity on a regular basis are necessary. Failure to do so in the heavily regulated seafood industry could be disastrous.

Common Seafood Processing Pests


The  most  frequently encountered pest in seafood processing plants are flies. A variety  of flies may be associated with these plants depending on their geographic location, but the most common are the house and blow fly.

House and blow flies usually originate outdoors, but enter facilities when attractive odors (i.e., fish) are present. Flies are usually a year-around threat and good sanitation practices are critical to reducing populations.

house fly - Sprague Pest Solutions

The house fly is the most frequently encountered pest in seafood processing facilities. 

Very small amounts of accumulated food debris left in the bottom of a trash container or in a crack of the production floor can be a food source for literally thousands of flies, not to mention multitudes of microorganisms. Research has shown that a single housefly can carry six and a half million bacteria.

Ashley Roden, B.C.E., Sprague’s technical and quality assurance manager, says a robust fly management program must be in place to keep these annoying interlopers at bay.

“Flies are attracted to fish and fish odors and when combined with an abundance of moisture and food debris, fly pressure levels can be significant around seafood processing plants,” says Roden.

Properly placed and sturdy insect lights traps that can withstand the harsh environments that are present in seafood processing plants, along with good sanitation and regular deep equipment cleaning practices and keeping doors closed will lower fly pressure.


Rodents represent a major problem for the seafood processing industry. Rodent species that typically threaten seafood processing plants include Norway and roof rats, and mice. Rats eat almost everything man or animals use as food, and they contaminate much more than they eat.

How much do rodents enjoy fish? Roden recalls once instance where Sprague technicians had to use fish as bait on traps to knockdown a persistent rat population. This action was need because the rats wouldn’t consumer traditional baits and only wanted to eat fish. This was a result of their mother teaching  them what food was safe to eat – the fish – and what wasn’t.

Sanitation and exclusion are the two key elements to preventing rodent issues. Removing food sources inside and outside a processing facility, and sealing openings, repairing screens, installing door sweeps and keeping doors closed will keep rodents from gaining access.

Roden points out that keeping rodents off docked ships requires installing rat guards – metal cones on the mooring lines – to prevent rodents from gaining access. And mice can be a threat to seafood processing boats as they can nest in the insulation of the freezer units that are located below deck.


Birds, especially seagulls and the occasional eagle in Alaska, present a threat to seafood processing facilities. Birds can easily navigate between properties that are miles apart and deliver pathogens (in their droppings) that contain harmful bacteria including listeria, E. coli and salmonella. These pathogens can be brought inside a facility on the sole of an employee’s shoe, on unprocessed commodities or on food processing equipment or preparation areas if the birds gain access through an open loading dock door or rest above entranceways.

Other Pests

Cockroaches are drawn to the abundant moisture that is present in seafood processing plants. They can be found in cracks and crevices where food debris is present or under processing equipment. On board processing boats, cockroaches can also be found in galleys and crew dining areas. Another pest that threatens seafood processing ships is bed bugs which can be found in crew quarters.

Sanitation Is Pest Control

Nobody wants to risk contamination in a food processing facility. Fish-focused facilities require more care than others due to fish having special storage needs, which makes sanitation in fish processing plant facilities even more critical. Taking the proper steps to ensure a sanitized facility will create a safe environment to produce food products for the public. The better you maintain your facility, the better the products you produce will be, and there will be less risk for contamination due to pests.

Discover The Sprague Difference

For more information on how Sprague Pest Solutions can assist you establish an effective pest prevention or management program in your seafood processing facility, call 855.805.0755.



Food Processing & Manufacturing