updated 7/24/2007 11:17:18 AM ET 2007-07-24T15:17:18

Clean-up crews on Monday started mopping up 3,500 gallons of diesel fuel that spilled in wildlife-rich Prince William Sound when a fishing vessel grounded there, state environmental officials said.

Fuel from the Nordic Viking, which grounded Saturday night, had reached an island used as a resting place for seals and was coating an unknown amount of shoreline, but officials had yet to find dead or injured animals, said John Brown at the state Department of Environmental Conservation. A cleanup could take weeks, he said.

The fuel covered an area at least 5 miles long and 200 feet wide. The spill is probably larger, Brown said, but dense fog on Monday prevented officials from flying over the sound for an update.

The spill is already among the 20 largest of the hundreds that have occurred in the sound in the past decade, said Leslie Pearson, prevention and emergency response manager for the department.

The site of the grounding is 25 miles south of Valdez and about 20 miles southeast of the reef where the Exxon Valdez ran aground in 1989, spilling 11 million gallons of crude oil into the south-central Alaskan fishery. There is no overlap between the Exxon Valdez and Nordic Viking spills, Pearson said.

The 127-foot Nordic Viking, which hauls fish from smaller boats to canneries onshore, grounded for reasons that remain unclear, Coast Guard officials said. The four crew members were unhurt and found shelter aboard another fishing boat nearby.

The owner of the boat, Bill Prout of Kodiak, is liable for cleanup under state law, Pearson said. Calls to Prout were not immediately returned.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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