Fish swim above a broken plate of coral on a reef at Douglas Shoal (Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority)
Authorities say the amount of oil washed onto a central Queensland island from a damaged Chinese coal carrier appears to be minimal.
The clean-up on North West Island on the Great Barrier Reef began this morning, about 10 nautical miles from where the Shen Neng 1was damaged when it aground nearly a fortnight ago.
Up to 25 staff have found small clusters of oil along a stretch of beach.
The Chinese coal carrier was refloated and towed to safe anchorage yesterday after it ran aground almost a fortnight ago.
However, divers are still to submit a report on damage to its hull.
Photographs were also released this morning showing the extent of the damage as the Shen Neng 1 battered against the remote coral reef, east of Rockhampton.
The photos, released by the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA), show a diver swimming above a track which has been gouged in the reef at Douglas Shoal.
Queensland Transport Minister Rachel Nolan says an aerial inspection along North West Island showed the spill was isolated.
"Flights over the island this morning could not detect any further oil in the water," she said.
"It's disappointing that small globules of oil have been discovered on a stretch of beach along North West Island.
"I've just been advised that clean-up crews are now on the island assessing the amount of oil that has washed ashore.
"Initial reports are that it is a very small amount but we remain vigilant."
Queensland Sustainability Minister Kate Jones says the coral cay is a well known nesting ground for seabirds and turtles.
"Staff are continuing to work around the clock to minimise the damage caused by the Shen Neng 1," she said.
Professor Mike Kingsford from James Cook University says the oil spill could put wildlife at risk on North West Island.
Professor Kingsford says there may be a minor threat to turtles on North West Island but the risk to half a million nesting birds is greater.
"They are actually drinking and feeding from those local waters," he said.
"Once the oil gets on their feathers that can be highly detrimental and either make them very sick or sometimes result in death.
"Turtles, I would imagine that where the animals actually come ashore to lay their eggs, that the risk to them would relatively minimal as they stayed under the slick and paddled away from it."
So it's not as bad as it could have been, but the stuff about the birds is worrying. Also, first post to ontd_political!