(CMR) The Cayman Islands Mosquito Research and Control Unit (MRCU) has no available pilots to carry out aerial operations due to vacation scheduling and an unplanned employee departure. This has left ground units with no aerial support leaving many to wonder how this was permitted. The Chief Pilot, Richard Clough, opted to not renew his contract and provided no notice to the organization before his departure. As a result, there was no contingency plan in place for a replacement.
All of this is occurring as mosquito conditions are worsening across the island.
This is being blamed for the recent resurgence of mosquitoes on the island. Several weeks ago the Disease Prevention Officers (DPOs/ground crew) detected mosquito larvae in the swamps and reported it to for immediate action. Without aerial support, it is impossible to reach the saltwater marsh mosquito larvae which are causing the DPOs to work overtime with ground fogging. Sources shared that this is causing frustration for both the residents on the island and DPOs who are oftentimes blamed for the increase in the mosquito population.
CMR understands that the aerial unit employees were permitted to take a vacation at a time that is considered the height of the mosquito season. About a week ago the Chief Engineer took two weeks' vacation which overlapped with the only remaining pilot who just started his vacation. The pilot is not permitted to fly without the support of an engineer who ensures safe flight conditions.
Former director, Dr. McNelly was criticized for using a controversial adulticide insecticide, Fyfanon. That contained an agent called Malathion that is linked to genotoxic and neurological effects in children. Many also believed that this treatment was killing the local bee population. The supply of this product is now being stored for emergency outbreaks only and the MRCU has resorted to using the safer products it had in the past.
A number of employees signed a letter of no confidence against McNelly in July 2020 bringing up these numerous areas of concern. However, these pilots did not sign that letter leading some to wonder if they are now trying to make a point – holding the entire country hostage to be bitten up by mosquitoes. The Chief Pilot was fond of flying at 84 feet instead of the safer 150 feet; which has also been a point of contention.
This is not the first time that MCRU aerial unit has come under criticism. Back in June 2007, a pilot was grounded and investigated by the Civil Aviation Authority after it was alleged that he was flying too close to a cruise ship in Georgoen Town on May 9, 2007. His license was temporarily suspended. However, he was eventually cleared some two weeks later after the CAA said there was “insufficient evidence to support the allegation.”
Amendments were subsequently made to the MRCU's aerial spraying procedures to ensure safety.
A new director, Dr. Alan Wheeler officially took over at the helms just last month.
MRCU's aerial unit reported directly to Acting Chief Officer Nellie Pouchie. Industry experts claim she is ill-equipped to have any units reporting directly to her given her lack of knowledge or expertise in the area.
Cayman has over 36 reported species of mosquitoes including the domesticated disease-carrying Aedes Aegypti.