The fish are hard to look at. One whitefish has a golfball-sized tumour on its side. Another is simply missing part of its spine, its tail growing from a stumpy rear end.

Others are covered with lesions and still others are bent and crooked from deformed vertebrae.

All were taken from Lake Athabasca, downstream from the oilsands in northern Alberta.

All are reasons, say a group of scientists and aboriginals, for the government to conduct an independent study on what’s happening to the Athabasca River and its watershed after decades of industry expansion.

“A lot of people are afraid to eat fish from the lake,” said Robert Grandjambe of Fort Chipewyan, which is also downstream from the oilsands. “It’s time we had a proper monitoring study done.”

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