The fish are hard to look at. One whitefish has a golfball-sized tumour bulging from its side. Another is simply missing part of its spine, its tail growing from a stumpy rear end. One has no snout. Another is coloured a lurid red instead of a healthy cream. Others are covered with lesions and still others are bent and crooked from deformed vertebrae. All were taken from Lake Athabasca, downstream from the oil sands in northern Alberta, and were on display Thursday. All are reasons, say a group of scientists and aboriginals, for the federal government to conduct an independent study on what's happening to the Athabasca River and its watershed after decades of industry expansion.